By Sam Steel
Did you know that safety and health information can be more effectively shared with your employees?
There is an important, complimentary role for safety briefings, safety training and safety education in your lawn and landscape business.
Safety Communication No. 1: Safety Briefings
First, let’s look at safety briefings and how they can be used to manage hazardous conditions that could expose workers to serious injury or illness. For many firms, safety briefings are a daily occurrence between crew managers and crew members. They are often reminders about company safety policies on topics like vehicle seat belt use, cell phone use while operating equipment or the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work sites.
A safety briefing can also be a warning about the potential for severe weather conditions during the work day. These would include storm warnings or the possibility of excessively warm weather, such as the onset of heat stress symptoms and how workers can prevent heat-related illnesses.
Safety briefings are short and concise. It is often a one-way form of communication between the supervisor and their crew members.
Safety Communication No. 2: Safety Training
Differences between safety briefings and safety trainings are significant. While a briefing is a mostly one-way, crew manager-directed initiative, training should be interactive between the trainer and the trainee(s). Trainings should encourage hands-on activities, demonstrations of safe work skills and a commitment to behavioral change targeting safe work practices.
Other differences between safety briefings and safety trainings involves the timing of the information transfer and the person who coordinates the activity. A briefing is usually the job of a crew manager and may only take minutes, while training is generally much more intense. Experienced safety trainer-employees of your firm should deliver training on a regularly scheduled day of the week or month.
Plan safety training topics in advance of the training date and relate them to seasonal safety and health hazards. These are those you identify with input from insurers and employee safety committees. Training will also review recorded “close call” incidents.
Safety Communication No. 3: Safety Education
Perhaps the most important information transfer component that closes the loop is safety educating. Our goal throughout this process is to:
- Provide reminders and warnings about safe work habits (briefings)
- Provide interactive sessions on enhanced safety knowledge and safe workplace behaviors (training)
- Ensure attendees retain the knowledge and adopt safe behaviors (educating)
Safety Communication: Safety Program Evaluation
There are several important means for determining if the information transfer cycle (briefing-training-educating) is effective at your firm. We refer to this step as the safety program evaluation. First, it is important that you document all briefing and training activities. Confirm every employee who goes through safety briefings and trainings with his/her name and date and the safety and/or health topic.
To measure effectiveness during training sessions, allow a minute or two to collect pre-training awareness and knowledge levels. Then do the same after the training. This is pre- and post-testing. Use the knowledge and skills gain at the end of the session to determine if you need additional training for all or some selected workers.
At lawn and landscape work sites, conduct worker observations to determine if critical safety recommendations are being followed post-training. For example, you may have recently trained employees on hearing conservation best practices and proper ear plug procedures. Upon observation of several work sites, you notice no one is using hearing protection or wearing ear plugs. After observing the post-training failure, you will likely schedule more training or deal with the PPE violation one-on-one with employees.
Remember these two important points when compiling your safety programs:
● Briefing, training and educating encompass a complete package that will afford your firm a legitimate opportunity at reducing safety and health workplace risks.
● Provide safety and health information in a language that your employees can understand.
The author is safety advisor for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Editor’s Note: June is National Safety Month! NALP will be sharing safety tips daily on its social media channels and blog. Help us spread the word on proper safety and share the tips with your colleagues and employees!