Spring is Here! Stay Safe in Grounds Maintenance This Month
Spring is a positive time of the year, with the season heralding the promise of balmy weather, snowdrops and daffodils. However, it’s not always rosy for everyone – operatives working in Grounds Maintenance and landscaping may anticipate the changing season with a sense of reluctance, as it means the new cycle of outdoor work begins in earnest.
At this time of year, it’s time to start considering outdoor maintenance work such as undertaking the first mow for lawns, cutting back dead foliage and growth, clearing grounds in preparation for new plants and thinking about cleaning up after the storms and harsh winter weather. While this is a time of energy, growth and new beginnings, these categories of outdoor activity all carry risks which need to be considered before the work begins.
So, in celebration of Spring, we’ve compiled a guide to the top hazards which our Grounds Maintenance clients face at this time of year, and the best ways to manage these risks, stay safe and bring tired gardens back into bloom!
Accidents from mowing
Now the weather is warming up, the grass on neglected lawns is starting to grow. However, this critical first cut carries certain hazards which all operatives need to be aware of when venturing out with the mower for the first time this year. According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), up to thirty deaths a year occur through risks associated with mowing, and they rate the job as akin to farming in terms of hazard level. They note that most lawn-related incidents go unreported, which could indicate that the job is riskier than we usually assume.
So, there are some key steps to take when doing the first mow of the year. Bear in mind that the length of grass may conceal hidden objects, so it’s important to assess the environment before considering the cut. Lawnmowers can propel debris at a rate of 100mph, so skipping the assessment could be a costly mistake.
In terms of PPE, it’s recommended that you wear sturdy protective gloves, goggles, sturdy shoes and long trousers when you mow. If the equipment gets obstructed or debris lodges in and around the blades, always ensure the mower is powered down with the safety function in place, and it goes without saying that you need to use an item such as a pole rather than your hands to remove it!
In addition, manufacturers Flymo make the following safety recommendations when using mowers: “If you have to cut the grass on a verge or slope, always mow across the slope. By avoiding cutting the grass by going up and down the slope, you remove the risk of losing control of the lawn mower”.
Pesticides and chemicals
There has been significant media interest recently around the use of chemical pesticide in Grounds Maintenance roles. The HSE has been moving towards more strict controls around the management of vegetation, investigating the potential health risks associated with widespread, long-term use of pesticides.
To safeguard against potentially harmful substances, it’s a great idea to equip you and your team with respiratory protection through an approved face mask, use gloves when handling or applying pesticides, and ensure that you wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid spills and splashes. The HSE states that there have been limited reports of pesticide-related illness or injury, but any role involving chemicals needs to adhere to common sense when it comes to protecting against potential harm.
Noise and Vibration
According to the HSE, cases of injury or ill-health due to noise pollution and vibration issuing from many Grounds Maintenance activity is on the rise. A number of routing tasks including use of plant and machinery to dig, saw and cut can carry potential hazard in the form of damage to hearing. As a result, it’s recommended that operatives wear appropriate ear protection to minimise the risk and stay safe when you’re undertaking high-noise tasks.
Any task which involves the use of saws and bladed obviously has risk associated with it, through accidental slips, trips or falls while holding sharp equipment, or hazards through deploying electric chainsaws for tree management. As one of the highest-risk elements of the Grounds Maintenance role, keep safe through thorough environmental assessment prior to commencing work in this field and ensure that equipment, PPE and Workwear are all compliant with legislation and fit for purpose before you start.
Additional safety measures for Spring gardening
It’s a good idea to maximise your safety in Grounds Maintenance for Spring, through effective PPE and Workwear. Use quality hand, face and ear protection depending upon which task you’re charged with completing, whether you are collecting fallen debris, raking leaves and cutting back dead wood.
We stock a great range of Grounds Maintenance Safety Products, to keep you and your team healthy on the job. Check all equipment carefully as you head out for the first real shift outdoors for the year, to ensure that material hasn’t degraded or purpose been compromised through damp storage or other issues which may affect its level of protection.
Finally, enjoy the welcome change in the weather, and the positivity, wellbeing and warmth which the shift in the season brings each year! If you would like more information about SMI’s range of protection for outdoor roles, please do get in touch with a member of our friendly team today, to learn how we can assist.