Safety Fail, Three Strikes and You’re Out! - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Safety Fail, Three Strikes and You’re Out!

Keep it Green Landscaping Safety Training pictured above

April 15 is the deadline to participate in the Safety Recognition Awards. Author Rod Dickens talked with two winners of the Best of the Best safety recognition awards to see what they are doing right when it comes to safety at their companies.

Keep it Green Landscaping in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, has won Best of the Best for the past five years in a row. “I always tell people there’s not one single thing they can do to make their company a safe place to work,” said company president Dyle MacGregor.  “Being safe is a culture. It applies to most everything you do, and everyone has to have buy in.”

With that said, he pointed to more than a few things his company does to help keep employees safe. “We require pre-employment drug tests and all our drivers are randomly tested for drugs. After we put the drug testing requirement into our help-wanted ads, the number of calls we received dropped dramatically, but their quality went up.”

MacGregor emphasized that being safe starts with the hiring process where he learns how much safety training an individual has received. “Our safety program requires all employees to read our handbook and understand our safety culture. We require them to wear PPE and warn them twice if they don’t. They don’t get three strikes and continue to work for us.

“Rutgers offers continuing education courses that stress safety practices when operating chain saws and other equipment. Manufacturers, too, offer classes on the subject. We send employees to seminars and classes. Upon their return, they share experiences with team members.

“Machines don’t have a conscious and they will do virtually anything an operator asks of them,” he emphasized.  “It seems the people most vulnerable are younger employees who think they are invincible and will never get injured. One way we get the message to them is to circulate articles about accidents and then discuss how they could have been avoided. Again, being safe requires everyone to have buy in, new and veteran employees alike.”

Peer pressure

For the last 24 years, Rich Arlington, president Arlington Lawncare & Landscape in Lake City, Pennsylvania, has employed peer pressure to help create a safety culture buy in. “You don’t want employees hurt, and from a purely business perspective, injuries and accidents are costly,” said Arlington. “At the very least, they are responsible for lost production and insurance rate hikes. “Companies that put an emphasis on being efficient must also put an emphasis on being safe.”

Arlington’s company has seven crews, each with a safety advisor. It’s that individual’s responsibility to ensure crew members wear PPE and follow safety protocols.  “Crew members aspire to that position,” said Arlington. “It not only gives them a sense of ownership, every quarter we give out safety bonuses for crews and the advisor gets 10 percent more.”

While the safety advisor keeps the crew in line, all crew members understand it’s ultimately their responsibility to be safe and, yes, ensure a safety bonus, he added.

While Arlington gives much of the credit for an impressive safety record, one that includes no accidents or injuries for 12 years and back to back Best of the Best safety awards, to peer pressure, it’s not the only catalyst.  His company has a complete safety manual and a special safety orientation for new employees.  The two-day session involves both power point presentations and hands-on with equipment.

There are also tailgate meetings every Monday and several educational opportunities with OSHA safety classes. He noted his insurance company also sends safety updates twice a year.

“If there’s one thing I impress on employees, it’s up to them to be safe,” Arlington emphasized. “If they can make time to do something that’s rather unimportant, then they can certainly make time to do something that is important, to work in a safe manner.  Applying peer pressure, along with other elements of our safety program, encourages them to make that all- important decision.”