Safety is of vital importance for your landscaping business. When your company has stellar safety practices to keep your workers safe, they’ll want to do the best job they can do. That, in turn, will help set your business apart from its competition.
But, the truth is that landscaping businesses have a higher risk of accidents and exposures than other industries. After all, you’re working with tools and machinery that increase the odds of an accident. Not only that, you and your workers are often exposed to chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides.
Finally, you’re doing it all on someone else’s property — your customers, leaving you open to a host of liability issues.
Combine that with the everyday challenges of running a business and dealing with employees and clients. It’s easy to see why you’d want to employ the best safety protocols to keep everyone protected from dangerous situations.
As a landscaping contractor, encouraging a safety-conscious work environment will not only help prevent accidents and illnesses from exposures — it will help you avoid unwanted liability claims.
If something unfortunate occurs, it can have legal and financial repercussions that make it harder for you to bounce back from.
Common Safety Risks and Exposures for Landscapers
Your landscaping company has risks and exposures that are unique to your business. Your business may perform simple landscaping tasks or it might take on tougher landscaping jobs that include tree trimming or excavating for a pond.
Chances are, you can identify many of the associated risks. It also helps to partner with an intermediary skilled at risk control services to lower those risks and the impacts they have on your landscaping business.
Here are some examples of those risks:
Liability risks encompass damage to your client’s home, property, or business, third-party property damage, injuries or illnesses caused by your landscaping company to someone besides your workers, negligent actions by someone in your business, and others.
Examples of Liability Exposures and Risks
- When cutting part of a tree limb, debris flies towards the client or a third party and injures them.
- When applying herbicide, it causes breathing problems to someone sensitive to the chemicals.
- When digging a garden bed, your tiller cuts into a gas line and causes a small explosion.
Commercial Property Damage Risks
Commercial property damage typically involves property owned by your landscaping business. The damage may be due to theft, a fire, or a storm.
Examples of Commercial Property Damage
- The building you keep some of your landscaping equipment in could catch fire, destroying all of the tools and machinery needed for your landscaping company to carry out its work.
- A sudden hail storm could damage your tractor, tiller, or riding mowers or puncture their gas tanks.
- You could wake up one morning, prepared to head to your next landscaping job, only to discover that all of your equipment has been stolen.
Commercial Vehicle Risks
Your commercial vehicles may be involved in an accident that can cause damage to the vehicles you use to and from job sites. This includes vehicles owned by your landscaping company and those that your employees may own.
In addition, someone in another vehicle or a pedestrian could get hurt in the accident and need medical attention.
Worst still, someone could die. This exposes your landscaping company to a host of liabilities if it can be proven that the driver of one of your company’s commercial vehicles is at fault.
Examples of Commercial Vehicle Risks
- One of your employees could inadvertently pass a red light and cause an accident with another car, injuring the other driver and totaling their vehicle.
- You or one of your workers could be driving your company’s vehicle when it begins to rain, causing your commercial vehicle to hydroplane and hit a tree. The accident destroys the vehicle and causes injuries that need medical attention.
- One of your workers may fail to adequately secure some of your landscaping company’s equipment as it sits in the bed of a trailer. Meanwhile, the equipment slides out onto the path of an oncoming vehicle, causing the driver behind it to swerve and spin out of control, killing the driver.
Risks to Employees
The risk to your workers is probably one of the biggest concerns any landscaping company owner has because they’re at a higher risk of work-related injuries or illnesses.
Your workers operate machinery that is potentially dangerous. They also work under extreme environmental conditions, such as blistering heat, snow, ice, and rain.
There are many other exposures that are perilous, including proximity to power lines, underground cables, unlevel ground conditions, and more. Employee injuries can be a result of poor judgment on their part or an unpreventable accident.
Examples of Risks to Your Landscaping Workers
- One of your workers has an accidental exposure to a pesticide. When applying the toxic substance, some of it leaks onto their skin as it’s applied around the perimeter.
- When adding wood to a chipper, the machine suddenly pulls in your worker’s arm and severs it.
- Your employee lays landscaping fabric down to create a garden bed. When they get up, they have sudden, excruciating pain radiating from their back and down their leg.
Environmental Hazards and Risks
Your lawn care company might use chemicals like herbicides, fertilizers, fungicides, or pesticides in some of its work, potentially leaching toxic substances into the air or ground. This type of environmental exposure can make one of your workers, the landowner, or a third party ill.
Examples of Environmental Risks
- One of your newer workers could incorrectly apply one of the chemicals commonly used by your landscaping company. Unfortunately, it runs off and contaminates nearby soil, the ground, and water supply.
- Your worker is applying pesticide around the perimeter of a client’s property and fails to wear PPE. The pesticide mist blows back towards his face when a wind gust suddenly occurs.
- As your worker applies herbicide to a client’s garden, they fail to realize the equipment leaks, and the chemicals make their way into the client’s prized perennials and shrubs, killing the plants and upsetting the property owner.
Increasing Safety for Your Landscaping Business
One of the first ways you can increase safety for your landscaping company, its workers, and your clients and third parties is obvious. Before you can determine what’s truly needed to put safety at the forefront of your business, you must first identify your company’s workplace hazards.
Once you identify those factors, you can work towards affecting change that will lead to a safer workplace. So, how can you go about doing this? There are a few ways.
Consult with your employees and find out what’s hindering safety on the job.
You can probably come up with a few hazards on your own since you’re the one that has gotten your landscaping business where it is today. So, take note of those safety hindrances and work towards better procedures that will improve safety.
But, also ask your workers where they feel uncomfortable when performing their landscaping duties. Each employee will likely be able to offer some helpful information that can build better safety practices for your landscaping business.
Enhanced landscaping safety standards can only help prevent worker injuries and illnesses, which, in turn, will increase your ratings with your workers’ comp insurance and other commercial insurance.
When safety comes first, your customers will also notice and be more likely to refer others to your landscaping business.
Collaborating with your workers benefits everyone in the end. They’ll feel more valued, and the quality of their work is likely to improve, with increased productivity and morale.
You’re more likely to retain quality workers who feel like they’re part of a team. This will help prevent high employee turnovers and help you have a healthy work culture that puts safety first.
Implement a good safety training program for your workers.
As an employer, you have an obligation to ensure that your workers are adequately trained in all manners of the work they perform.
Train your employees well, focusing on the proper safety protocols to achieve a successful outcome for each job. It’s also best to only allow your workers to use the equipment they’re trained for.
For instance, if tree removal services are an extension of the duties of your landscaping business, only allow employees that are fully trained in using the chainsaws, wood chippers, and other equipment needed to do the work.
It’s also best if the training is conducted by an expert who understands the safest practices in using landscaping equipment.
Consider pairing an experienced landscape worker with a new employee during their initial training.
Finally, safety training on when to use PPE and the correct use of personal protective equipment should be a priority. For instance, the importance of safety goggles when using equipment that could hurl objects into your workers’ eyes seems wise.
Consider having weekly or bi-weekly meetings on landscaping safety to consistently remind your workers of its importance.
Routinely inspect landscaping equipment, gear, and job sites.
One of the best ways to see that safety awareness remains a high priority for your landscaping business is to continually examine the factors at all times that influence it.
For instance, if you regularly inspect your landscaping business’s tools and equipment, you’re more likely to discover when something needs repair.
Also, look at your workers’ habits while they work to see that safety protocols are followed. Whenever you notice something amiss, corrective measures are important to remedy the problem.
Maintain detailed records.
Maintaining accurate and detailed records can help protect your landscaping business if it faces a lawsuit.
But it can do much more than that. It can help you to have a record of when you’ve performed maintenance in your landscaping equipment, as well as to have an account of where procedures could be improved.
Your safety logs should document all protocols, ranging from how a job was carried out, how you’ve maintained your equipment, and any medical protocols you have undertaken for an injured employee.
If your landscaping business has ten or more full-time employees on its payroll, OSHA requires you to keep a log of all work-related illnesses and injuries.
Evaluate your company’s safety records from time to time to see where improvements can be made.
Reward safety-conscious employees.
Implement a safety awards program at your landscaping business.
Offer graduated pay increases at pre-set intervals for employees that prioritize workplace safety and avoid accidents and exposures. Promote top performers to crew leaders or offer other promotions.
Rewarding safety-conscious workers doesn’t have to be so technical, either. You might even consider giving safe employees a Friday off with pay.
The point is to show how much you value safety on the job.
Increase Safety Awareness for Your Landscaping Business
The landscaping industry carries an elevated of injury or environmental illness for your workers, clients, and third parties. Just about anything can go awry, from an unexpected accident or accidental exposure to a toxic substance.
As a landscaping business owner, there are some things within your power that you can do to minimize those risks and put safety at the forefront of your company’s operations.
General awareness of those risks is an excellent first step. Then, implementing time-proven safety protocols can make the work environment for everyone more secure.
It’s good to remember, though, that sometimes despite the best precautions, every business still has risks that it must contend with. That’s why partnering with a landscaping industry expert who can help manage those risks and minimize the liability impacts for you and your business is vital.