Monday, May 17, 2010

Why did these landscapers have to die?

Here are two more tragic reasons why we must provide ongoing safety training if we own or manage a landscape, tree or lawn service business — “ongoing,” because we all tend to forget or let sloppiness slip back into our routines if we don’t get regular reminders.

Two recent and very similar mowing-related fatalities involved young men, probably much like the young men with wives and children working for many of us. Both accidents were preventable had the unfortunate victims recognized (or been trained to recognize) specific mowing hazards.

On the afternoon of May 12 a 33-year-old Detroit man died when his commercial riding mower slid down a steep slope, overturned and trapped him in a small creek at an apartment complex in Shelby Township, MI. The mishap was only discovered when a passerby noticed the undercarriage of the mower sticking above the water.

Just three days later, the 29-year-old operator of a commercial mower died in an eerily similar accident on Brush Creek near Kansas City, MO.

Each year sees about 200 landscape workers killed on the job, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor. The number of accidents and fatalities, as you might expect, is greatest from May through September.

The most common event resulting in landscape services worker fatalities was transportation incidents. About 33% of all landscape worker fatalities were due to transportation incidents in comparison with 43% for all U.S. industry.

Landscape services workers were more likely to die due to falls to lower level, struck by falling objects, and electrocutions (22%, 17%, and 9.8%, respectively).

Landscape services workers were engaged in a range of activities at the time of the occupational fatalities. Using tools or machinery during tree trimming or removal activities was particularly hazardous. Fatalities during tree trimming or removal activities were caused by falls from heights, being struck by falling objects and electrocutions.

Most landscape services worker fatalities occurred on private property with the largest proportion at private residences.

Safety Guidelines

* Understand and comply with all OSHA regulations that apply to the landscape services operations and tasks.

* Develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive safety program that includes written rules and safe work procedures. A joint health and safety committee with employees & supervisors should be considered.

* Conduct an initial and daily jobsite survey before beginning work to identify all hazards and implement appropriate controls.

* Provide specific training for hazards such as power lines and other sources of electricity, tree trimming and felling, falls from heights, roadway vehicle operations, and hand and portable power tools use.

* Train operators of off-road machinery and other specialized equipment to follow manufacturers’ recommended procedures for safe operation, service, and maintenance.

* Monitor workers during periods of high heat stress/strain and remind workers of the signs of heat-related illness and the need to consume sufficient water during hot conditions.

Free Tailgate Training Documents in English and Spanish

* OSHA PLANET Alliance Safety & Health Topics Page

* California State Compensation Insurance Fund Bi-lingual Training

* Farm Safety Association Inc. (Canada)

* Kansas State University Research and Extension and College of Agriculture,

* Ohio State Univ. College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Landscape Worker Bi-lingual Training

* Oregon Health and Science University, Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology

* PLANET Safety Tip Sheets

— The LM Editors

1 comment:

Kostas said...

Wow, I had no idea so many of us are killed every year. I suppose it brings some hazards comparable to many other occupations, but I guess I've never seen the actual numbers.

Very good advice you have here, it definitely can save lives.