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The importance of having a comprehensive health and safety program
Jill Odom | September 5, 2017

spray painted wood says safety first with yellow safety vest and hard hatEvery good landscaping company knows that safety is an important aspect of their business, but for those that are experiencing growth it may have been awhile since their safety program has been examined.

The purpose of a workplace safety program is straightforward enough with the goal of reducing work-related injury and illness. It should include any policy, procedure or training that helps protect workers from a work-related injury or illness.

The benefits of having a documented version on your health and safety procedures ensures that employees are aware of acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace, there is clear framework is in place for decision-making and there are existing procedures in the case of an emergency.

Having a consistent and clear response across the company when dealing with situations can help avoid misunderstandings and claims of bias.

When it comes to creating a health and safety program for your landscaping business there are several options. If you have the money to spare, you can always reach out to a safety consulting firm to build a custom program that includes your entire scope of work.

If you’ve inherited or purchased your landscaping business, a program is probably already in place that may only need tweaking. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers free and confidential on-site consultations to small and medium-sized business. They will work with you to identify workplace hazards and provide advice on compliance, as well as help establish injury and illness prevention programs.

Some of the elements that should be assessed when making sure your program is up-to-date include: safety and health activities, equipment, employee capabilities and accident and injury history.

After gathering the facts, you can determine where changes need to be made. Even if there are no major problems, OSHA advises creating a comprehensive program with a four-point safety and health program.

To do this you must:

  • Establish your management commitment and involve your employees
  • Regularly conduct a worksite analysis
  • Create systems to prevent and control hazards
  • Provide ongoing training for employees, supervisors and managers

The first part of the four-point system is the most important if you want your program to last long-term. The company must commit to the safety program and demonstrate that safety is a priority.

You can show your sincerity by involving employees in your planning and carrying out your objectives. By requesting their involvement, they will be able to provide valuable insights as you develop your program.

“I think it’s imperative for any company that’s looking at it, wondering how to improve their safety score it’s gotta come from the top down on every level,” said Miles Graves, branch manager for The Greenery Inc., based in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. “Until you have an owner or a CEO or president who is willing to put in the time and effort and push the importance of it, it’s never going to work. One person can’t keep that going if the top isn’t supporting it.”

The second point is for identifying the hazards and potential hazards present in your workplace. This is an ongoing process and includes things like equipment maintenance, harmful chemicals and proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Once hazards have been identified, the basic formula for controlling these workplace dangers in order of preference are: eliminate the hazard, abate the hazard, train employees to be aware of the hazard and prescribe PPE to protect employees against the hazard.

The final step of the four-point program is to provide ongoing training so employees are aware of hazards they may encounter and how to respond to them. Supervisors should take the time to reinforce training with quick reminders and refresher courses for employees.

Keeping records of your policy statements, training sessions and safety and health meetings are all highly encouraged by OSHA.

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