As a superintendent, you juggle many responsibilities, and the safety of your crew is right at the top of the list. Your team works around sources of hazardous energy daily, posing risks of electric shocks, entanglement, and faulty combustion engines. In fact, nearly 10% of serious accidents in the workplace are a result of the
Fall is upon us, which means the leaves are starting to change color, there’s a fresh chill in the air, and your crew is getting ready for the tree-trimming season! When the gas-powered tools come out, that’s your cue to make sure everyone is reminded of the necessary safety precautions. While they may be fun to use, gas-powered tools are NOT toys and should be treated with the utmost care to avoid injuries to your crew.
From chainsaws and blowers to hedge- and string trimmers, gas-powered tools present many potential safety risks to the crew members using them. It’s important to go over the vital safety training needed to handle them and take any steps you can to ensure your crew’s safety. We sat down with David McGregor, superintendent at Westwood Country Club in Virginia, to gain some deeper insight into how superintendents can ensure their crew’s safety during this season and the essential steps that they can take to achieve this.
Superintendent at Westwood Country Club and Golf Safety member, David McGregor
1. START THE YEAR STRONG
At the Westwood Country Club, McGregor begins every year with a safety training session and orientation. “The first thing we do at the beginning of every year is reading the safety booklet that [Golf Safety] provides,” McGregor tells us. “We go through every piece of equipment and every task of what to do, where to go, how to do it. We do a big orientation for the whole staff.”
Make sure you start every year with your crew strong, refreshing their memories and catching them up to speed with all the essential safety tips they need to keep in mind throughout the year. Not only will keeping resources like safety training videos and safety manuals on hand make your life easier, but it’ll also make it easier for your crew to stay safe while they work.
2. CLEAR THE AREA
Before any one of your crew members even picks up a gas-powered tool, they should ensure that the area they’re going to be working in is clear of debris and people. Debris picked up by equipment like a string trimmer can be thrown at speeds of over 200MPH, which means that failing to follow this safety precaution could lead to serious injury or even death.
“The operator has got to be in charge of keeping people away,” says McGregor. “And just making sure you’ve got someone who is in control of what everybody is doing, so you know where everybody is. I think that’s the most important thing.” It’s crucial to stay vigilant while using dangerous gas-powered tools and make sure that anyone else is working at a safe distance. As McGregor reminds us, “The guy operating [the gas-powered tools] needs to know where people are at – and everybody needs to have their safety gear on, of course.”
3. PPE IS KEY
Speaking of safety gear, we come to one of the MOST important safety steps for tree trimming season: making sure that your crew is wearing the correct PPE. McGregor explains to us the gear the Westwood facility provides for their crew during the fall. “For tree trimming and hedge trimming, we’ve got hard hats, visors, gloves, and we have salopettes. Obviously, the tools that are needed as well, the rakes, blowers, earplugs, etc.,” he says.
Not only is it important to provide this personal protective equipment to your crew members, it’s essential that they know when and how to wear it. For example, some gas-powered tools may not seem particularly loud at first during use, but nevertheless, crew members should always wear ear protection like earplugs or earmuffs to prevent long-term hearing damage over time.
4. HAVE A CLEAR CHAIN OF COMMAND
Particularly in the case of an emergency, having a clear chain of command for your crew members to follow can be the difference between safety and grave injury. At the Westwood Country Club, there are assigned supervisors to the teams working on each task, i.e. the hedge trimming crew, tree trimming crew, etc. “They know we have three supervisors that are always around the golf course at the property,” McGregor explains to us. “So they always have a direct person they can go to. They know that they need to contact this person and complete a certain action if something happens.”
Having multiple supervisors in charge of various teams ensures the safety of everyone involved and, in the unfortunate event that someone gets hurt, makes the process of finding emergency assistance straightforward. Educating your crew on the steps they should take in the case of an emergency and giving them access to this vital information is a crucial safety measure to take during tree trimming season. “We have all of our phone numbers available, we have all of the eyewash stations, all of the first aid box locations, all of the AED – automated external defibrillator – locations,” details McGregor, “That’s all in our orientation book.”
5. ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION
When using dangerous gas-powered tools, it’s always better for your crew to take their time and pay careful attention to the task at hand. Rushing your work with gas-powered tools can lead to dangerous mistakes and lapses in judgment that could have deadly results. Discussing the biggest safety challenges he and his crew face during this season, McGregor speaks about his struggle with “People trying to rush through a task, not wearing PPE, and other people not paying attention.”
You should take the time as a superintendent to ensure that everyone – supervisors and crew members included – is on the same page. “[It’s] quality over quantity,” emphasizes McGregor, “The biggest risk is… what’s the word I’m looking for? Absent-minded individuals in the team doing something that jeopardizes everyone else’s safety.”
Don’t let the cozy fall atmosphere lull you and your crew into a false sense of security! The foliage may be beautiful, and we may be feeling relief from the oppressively hot summer temperatures, but this new season comes with a whole set of new safety risks. As a superintendent, it’s your job to educate your crew and provide the safety training they need to keep them safe while they transition to fall tasks like tree trimming that require the use of gas-powered tools. At the Westwood facility, McGregor has found safety training videos like Golf Safety’s to be an invaluable resource. “The videos are phenomenal because we, as supervisors and as leaders, are telling our staff how to do things all the time. When we put the videos on, it’s another dimension,” he says.
When it comes to safety training, there’s no such thing as too much repetition! Remind your crew often of the safety measures they should be taking, make sure they’re listening, and repeat yourself as often as necessary. “When it comes from a video which is very professionally executed, it shows that this is something those guys need to pay attention to,” McGregor tells us, “Golf Safety is essentially another voice for us to make sure we stay safe.”
Make sure that YOUR crew is prepared for fall and all the dangers that come along with operating gas-powered tools during this season. Schedule a consultation with Golf Safety to chat about what we can do to help keep your crew safe and educate them on the dangers they may encounter while tree trimming.
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