Working in landscaping can be a dream. You get to work outdoors, surrounded by nature all day long – no 9-5 stuck in an office or in rush hour traffic for you! The work is strenuous, but the sense of well being can elicit feelings of serenity and peace after a job well done. However, what many landscapers do not consider are the dangers of working outdoors, and especially working with plants. Outdoor work has associated risks that need to be addressed.
You may be landscaping hard, soft, and interior landscaping; sports turf maintenance; private heritage and botanic gardens; commercial grounds; public parks and green spaces; or a combination of all, but do you consider the effects of the weather, pesticides, and everyday hazards can have on your health both long and short term? Read more on what the hazards are and how to stay safe.
Here are five top tips on staying safe when working outdoors.
1. Consider weather conditions
From the dangers of the cold and rain to rising summer temperatures, landscapers can face dangers even in English weather.
In 2014 alone, nearly 2,500 people died from skin cancer, and 86% of those cases were thought to be preventable, according to Cancer Research UK. For those who routinely work in hot sun: cover up by wearing fabrics with UVA protection and a close-knit weave, wear sun cream that’s at least SPF 15, reapply sun cream every two hours, wear a hat and sunglasses, and limit sun exposure. Try and take frequent breaks, drink plenty of water, and rest in the shade when you can.
For cold and/or wet weather try and wear layers with added protection. Wear waterproof clothing in rainy conditions and wear warm layers that can be added and removed. Wear wellington or other waterproof work boots with slip-resistant soles. Cold and wet temperatures can lead to chilblains, reduced core temperature, and other complications. If you get soaked through, it’s best to go inside warm up and change before venturing out again.
2. Pesticide exposure
Those working with plants may have some level of pesticide exposure which will have environmental, water quality, and overarching health issues. If handling pesticides, wear impermeable gloves, read the instructions carefully, and don’t spray when raining. Pesticides can enter through the mouth and be inhaled into the lungs or through the skin. Wear long pants, safety shoes, gloves, and eye protection to reduce exposure. Pesticides can cause occupational asthma and varying levels of poisoning that can lead – at the most extreme case – to death. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, headache, nausea, vomiting, trembling, blocked airways, chemical burns, and more. Limit exposure or eliminate pesticide use when possible.
3. Everyday hazards
Landscapers face everyday hazards such as noise exposure, vibration, working on slopes with the danger of mowers overturning, tree work dangers such as in arboriculture with the use of chainsaws and cutters. Landscapers are in danger of harming themselves, having equipment fall on them, falling from heights, and so forth. To avoid these hazards, landscapers should understand the dangers and risks, and take the correct precautions. For example, the upper limit of exposure to sound should be 80 dB; to protect yourself from harm you should wear ear plugs and/or ear defenders with the appropriate noise reduction rating when working with outdoor machinery to reduce sound to safe levels. Heavy machinery, electric motors, and city traffic is around 70-90 dB, and jack hammers, power saw, and lawn mowers are around 100-120 dB. Ear protection should meet EN 352-1, 2, or 3 standards.
4. Lifting and Awkward Posture
Errors in lifting and having an awkward posture can cause musculoskeletal issues for landscapers. It’s crucial landscapers use proper lifting techniques by lifting from the legs and not straining the back in order to maintain a healthy back without having issues later on in life. Landscapers routinely lift compost bags, trees, plants, landscaping supplies, gravel, soil, and other heavy equipment, which can all cause strain when lifted incorrectly. Even time spent planting flowers in beds in an awkward position, for example, can cause stiffness in the joints after a long day. Landscapers should take frequent breaks and stop movements if they cause undue fatigue and stress on the body.
5. Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are the most common workplace accident, according to the Health and Safety Executive, across all industries. The goal is to reduce workplace accidents, so landscapers should be careful when they are walking through heavily wooded areas or areas where there are trip hazards. In areas with mud, wet leaves, wet grass, slippery rocks, and other slippery features, be sure to wear slip-resistant footwear.
Written by Danielle Easton, Marketing specialist at Xamax Clothing