Developing a landscaping safety plan and safety procedures

Safety should be No. 1 on your list of operational programs to implement, enforce and improve
Safety should be part of your everyday environment.
This article was originally published in Colorado Patio & Landscape.

We often get asked, “How do I put together a safety plan?” If you check within your own network, chances are you will find qualified people who can help you get started. Once you get your initial plan implemented, it becomes a living document; year by year, you build, customize and improve your program. Every contractor has a different culture and different feelings toward safety. Regardless, safety should be No. 1 on your list of operational programs to implement, enforce and improve, whether you have two employees or 2,000.

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Resources where you can find safety manual templates include your attorney, insurance agent or insurance carriers, including workers’ compensation and property and casualty insurance carriers. Insurance carriers always have programs to lend and can provide significant support when developing safety programs. It is in their best interest to provide this support to you because a safe workplace means fewer claims they have to pay. Your local trade association and companies that focus on developing specific safety programs for various industries are also good sources.

As part of the onboarding process, new employees should be introduced to your safety plan the minute they walk in the door and receive updates and reviews on a frequent basis. Employees who have been on the job for less than 12 months are the cause of most job-related accidents and injuries. The second most common accidents are caused by employees who have been with you or in the same industry over 10 years, and they become complacent and think they know how to do the job in their sleep. This is when they end up getting hurt.

Your safety plan can and should be customized to your operation, but a good template is a great place to start. Don’t make your safety program just a platitude; make it part of your everyday environment with employees, management team and owners. Just like you show employees how to plant a tree or drive a skidsteer, you should always incorporate job-specific safety tasks into their training.

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Important elements to your safety plan may include: a safety pledge signed by the owner and key managers of the company and agreed to by all of the employees, a safety orientation for new employees, a return-to-work program, emergency action and evacuation plans, a contingency plan for business interruptions, emergency contact information, workplace violence and sexual harassment policies, vehicle use policies for commercial and personal vehicles including distracted driving policies, general safety procedures, job-specific precautions and procedures and, most importantly, an acknowledgment form signed by all employees indicating they have read the safety plan and understand all of the policies. It is important to note that if an employee signs the acknowledgement form and blatantly breaks a safety rule and is injured, your work comp carrier can potentially reduce the employee’s benefits by 50%.

Troy D. Sibelius, FASLA, CIC, CRM, is an executive vice president and client advisor at The Buckner Company. He can be reached at [email protected].

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