SAFETY IN NUMBERS

As I began to go through the topics of articles in this month's issue of Grounds Maintenance, I thought to myself, “Interesting, but not really enlightening. After all, isn't safety really a matter of common sense?” Of course it is. I mean, we all know that wearing our seatbelts will help promote our safety if we get into a car accident, but I'm guilty of not putting mine on at least half the time. We also know that it's safest to come to a complete stop at all stop signs, drive the speed limit and signal all turns. Guilty again. And sunscreen every day? You get the idea. We know what to do, we're just not always so great about doing it. And if you think that our industry can't stand to improve, that's where the enlightening aspect of this month's magazine comes into play: the accident reports, the OSHA violations and some bad press.

An estimated 75 people die from lawn-mower-related injuries each year. Do the bulk of these involve professionals in the green industry? Absolutely not. But some of them do. And all of them are preventable. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has targeted our industry as high-risk, and issued 161 citations last year to prove it. The most frequently-cited violation: lack of personal protection equipment. Employers in our industry were not providing necessary equipment in these cases, they reported. And merited or not, our industry recently made the news when CNN/Money reported that, for the first time, outdoor jobs in landscaping, groundskeeping and lawn services made the National Consumers League's (NCL) list of most dangerous jobs for young workers. It was No. 3 on the list, behind agriculture jobs (No. 1) and construction jobs (No. 2). “While fatality numbers are low in these types of outdoor jobs, work often involves the use of dangerous power tools and machinery, as well as hazardous chemicals and pesticides,” according to the article. The NCL compiles its list annually, based on government statistics and reports, labor department surveys and news accounts of injuries and deaths. This year's report included information on a 15-year-old Florida youth who died of electrocution in May while trimming trees, even though the Federal Child Labor Law specifies that “Chainsaws and other select power-driven equipment is prohibited for use by employees under the age of 18.”

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So do we need an entire issue devoted to safety? Yes, we do. Because even if it is common sense, we could all improve on safety or, at the very least, benefit from a reminder.

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