Your greenhouse or nursery follows certain safety and compliance standards. But now you’re thinking of opening up your commercial operation to the public, and perhaps you’re choosing to specialize in flower or nursery sales.
In past years, you had an extensive safety checklist for your business— but how does that change now that you expect foot traffic in your greenhouse or nursery? Do safety standards and compliance change much at all?
No matter what your growing operation sells, making the transition to a public greenhouse means there are certain safety and compliance situations you should take into consideration more than others— and here are the most important ones.
Do you have a fire escape plan?
Every greenhouse or nursery should have an internal escape route or plan in case of a fire (as well as an overall approach to reducing fire risk). This should be shared between employees and other personnel, especially when it comes to an escape plan.
It’s recommended to have a visual fire escape plan posted in obvious places for employees. But in a greenhouse or nursery that is open to the public, you should absolutely have copies of the plan visible to your customers in the instance that a greenhouse fire occurs.
Will you be allowing pets?
This comes down to the discretion of the greenhouse or nursery entrepreneur, as pets (typically dogs) can be one aspect of public access to think about. Most operators disallow and discourage pets, but not always (and you don’t have to).
That said, if you do choose to allow pets to enter your public greenhouse, there are some safety rules—applying to yourself, your personnel, your product, and the pet’s safety itself— to take into account. Product should be kept above ground level to avoid damage from pets and, inversely, plants that are potentially harmful to animals (since most animals can’t help themselves) should be kept out of their reach should get curious or hungry.
Is the environment safe for children?
In the same vein as pets, expect children to number among your potential greenhouse or nursery clientele. You’ll need to ramp up considerations for safety even more so with children than with pets, especially with very young children and toddlers (and especially because it’s harder to discourage children from public spaces than pets).
For example: are toxic or poisonous plants in reach? It may be ideal for all product to be browsable only on tabletops, shelves, or greenhouse benches rather than on the ground, where children can reach them or accidentally consume them (or have something fall on them). Be sure to generally “child proof” your public space if you do not want to be liable for any harm: it’s important that any electronics, heating components, and potentially sharp or harmful greenhouse tools are inaccessible to any young child.
Schedule and limit chemical usage
When running a private greenhouse or nursery, you can schedule chemical use and spraying for practically any time you want. However, if your spot is open to foot traffic, you lose this privilege for the sake of public safety.
If you need to spray pesticides, herbicides, or some type of disease treatment, be sure to schedule it so there is plenty of time for your greenhouse or nursery to air out long before people enter the space. For any public space in general, having adequate ventilation indoors (even if your nursery is not a greenhouse) is essential, not to mention an optimal requirement for healthy plants.
If you can, perform all chemical applications outdoors. Create a routine of swapping out plants that need applications to a safe point far away from the public and outside of the greenhouse and nursery. Make sure you give plants ample time for chemical residue to wear off. That way, if products are handled and touched, your customers are not directly exposed to any chemical residues on flowers, trees, or other plants.
Keep equipment, appliances, and chemicals off-limits
It’s not just children or pets that can wander into danger (and liability) when they visit your public greenhouse. Unwitting adults can get their noses into trouble or harm, too.
Anything you would deem important or potentially hazardous in a greenhouse— irrigation or water sources, equipment (large or small), greenhouse tools, appliances (especially electric and heating ones), and hazardous agricultural chemicals— should be stowed away in areas customers don’t know about, or otherwise have no access to at all (such as a shed or closet).
Have you been inspected?
If you don’t even know where to start, or need guidance for making your public greenhouse safe, get an inspection. You can contact independent greenhouse organizations or even the USDA directly for guidance (especially for GAP/GHP practices, which can extend to public safety).
Better yet, perform routine safety inspections yourself: get your staff and personnel involved, and address any appliances or other potentially hazardous greenhouse equipment you use that could pose hazards to the public.
Is your greenhouse or nursery handicap accessible?
Is your greenhouse or nursery easy to get around? This is a good question not just for the average greenhouse client, but also for those who may be disabled (handicapped or “differently abled.”)
A safe greenhouse means that it is safe for everyone, not just a select number of the population. If you really want to have a compliant business that creates safety and accessibility for the public, be sure to include the entire public. Handicap access (like ramps) or wide aisles and spaces to peruse your greenhouse or nursery space can help with this.
Be sure to have liability insurance
Last, but not least: always have liability insurance. You can have all manner of safety precautions in place and be more compliant than any other business in your region, and yet still deal with accidents or injuries experienced by public clientele— and right within your own business.
For this reason, always have a commercial liability insurance plan to cover your customers, not just your workers and product. You don’t want to be financially or legally responsible and unprotected when this time comes around— but the right insurance policy can help.
For even more greenhouse- and nursery-specific liability insurance, be sure to consider greenhouse insurance policies. These create a blanket of protection tailored precisely to greenhouse enterprises and any possible safety, liability, or compliance issues they might face, and which other policies may fail to properly address.