Spring is finally in the air and landscaping contractors across the state of Illinois are ready to get back to work. As you start to book jobs and prep all your equipment, please make sure you carve out some time to review safety. The time you spend on planning and training your employees will help ensure you are at full capacity when the busy season actually arrives.
Control Traffic and Pedestrians While Working
The key to preventing serious accidents within your work area starts with controlling the flow of vehicles and pedestrians. If your work is going to be near a roadway, use traffic control devices such a cones, barricades and flaggers to guide vehicles through and around the work zone. You can find more help on this from the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation. If your work will interfere with traffic, be sure to use certified flaggers to help manage vehicles. Employees should be easily visible to drivers by wearing high visibility vests and using lights at night. If the work area affects pedestrian traffic, be sure you provide a safe alternate route, that is well marked to prevent anyone from accidentally wandering into your jobsite.
Manage Drop Zones to Avoid Overhead Hazards
Some falling tree limbs or dropping a hand tool can land with enough force to cause serious injury to workers on the ground; be sure to manage your drop zone whenever overhead work is occurring. Use cones or caution tape to mark the drop zone and require all workers to wear hard hats and eye protection. Workers should also establish a system of verbal and visual ques so that elevated trimmers can inform ground personnel to stand clear when an overhead hazard exists.
Minimize Hazardous Noise from Equipment
Noise-induced hearing loss can come from a single exposure to an intense noise or continued exposure to loud noises. Most landscaping equipment; chippers, chain saws, mowers; produce a hazardous level of noise, but there are ways to protect employees from permanent hearing damage.
- Understanding hazardous noise levels – While there are some specific guidelines for what is considered dangerous, a good rule of thumb is that if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone three feet away, you are experiencing hazardous noise.
- Make tools quieter – You can make your equipment quitter with proper maintenance. Apply the needed lubrication, use sharp blades and change seals. You should also replace worn parts and consider installing mufflers, if the piece of equipment allows you to.
- Provide hearing protection – You should do your best to eliminate as many noise exposures as possible, but if your employees’ noise exposure still exceeds 85dB over an 8-hour day, you should create a hearing protection program to protect your employees. Hearing protection might be in the form of ear plugs (disposable or reusable) or ear muffs. Depending on noise levels, your employees may need to war more than one type of hearing protection at the same time.
Plan Ahead to Avoid Falls
If you use aerial lifts or ladders to get closer to your work, additional safety considerations should be looked at. Your employees can be thrown from elevated buckets or a lift may tip over. Only qualified and trained employees should be allowed to operate aerial lifts and they should follow the manufacturer instructions. Make sure to use the brakes and wheel chocks to ensure the lift stays put and set outriggers on a solid, level surface to help prevent tip-overs. You and your employees should assess the work site before setting up any equipment. Be sure to look for overhead hazards and sloped or unstable ground areas that might not be suitable for equipment placement. For employees working in lifts or near unguarded edges, use a body harness or restraining belt and be sure to tie off to an approved anchor point.
Avoid Overhead Power Lines
Your employees can be electrocuted when a tree limb, branch or uninsulated aerial lift encounters a live electrical power line. Train your employees to spot power lines before starting work and treat all overhead lines and cables as if they are energized. Unless specifically qualified, employees should stay at least 10 feet away from power lines at all times. If your employees are working near power lines, use non-conductive ladders made of wood or synthetic material (never metal). To avoid accidental contact with lines, do not trim trees in dangerous weather conditions, and do not use corded electric power tools in trees near live power lines. This link will provide more information about working near electricity.
Keep Your Distance from Chippers
You and your employees most likely work with several types of hazardous equipment, each with their own safe work practices. Some kinds of equipment, like chainsaws are obviously hazardous due to visible blades and fast rotation. Other equipment, like a wood chipper, can seem less dangerous because the most hazardous parts are hidden from view. An employee that uses a chipper may be injured if they lean too far into the chipper hopper or get to close while feeing material in with their hands. They can also be struck by the material that is thrown from the chipper. Make sure your employees know how to inspect and operate chippers and that all safety guards and controls are working properly. Anyone that is working near a chipper should wear safety glasses, a hard hat and hearing protection. Wearing close-fitting clothing and skid-resistant shoes can also prevent an unfortunate accident around the chipper. Your employees should always stand to the side when feeding materials, inserting the cut end first and using larger pieces (instead of hands) to feed in small branches. Only wood should be placed into the machine, and employees should never reach into the chipper to clear a jam while it is operating.
If you have any questions or concerns on your landscaping coverage, call us at 847-907-4520. R.C. Keller & Company is a full service Trusted Choice Insurance Agency. We have protected landscapers of Illinois since 1910. We offer a full array of personal insurance, business insurance and life insurance products.