In March, the Austin Police Department responded to a 9-1-1 phone call about an overturned lawnmower in a ditch. When they arrived on the scene, they discovered that a 25-year-old landscaping worker had been thrown into the water when the lawnmower overturned. The worker was not breathing and emergency response teams were unable to revive him.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), two similar cases occurred in Arkansas and Louisiana within 30 days of the Austin landscaping accident. In a press release, OSHA called these numbers “alarming” and encouraged landscaping employers to continue to be vigilant in protecting their employees.
How Can Landscaping Employees Stay Safe in the Workplace?
The landscaping industry encompasses a wide range of outdoor services including irrigation system installation, hardscape construction, retaining wall construction, lawn care, tree trimming, shrub planting and line clearing. According to OSHA, many workers in the landscaping industry are Latino and English may not be their first language. Landscaping employers are responsible for training their workers in the language that the workers understand. OSHA provides Spanish-language resources specifically for this purpose.
Moreover, employers are required to properly provide training and maintenance for all equipment used for landscaping. Other ways that OSHA requires landscaping employers to keep workers safe include the following:
- Training workers to identify harmful plants and destroy them properly
- Showing workers how to protect themselves against insects with repellents or protective clothing
- Telling workers to exercise caution when working in areas with either domestic or wild animals
- Allowing workers rest periods, especially during harsh jobs, such as sawing or digging, as well as during hot weather
- Requiring workers to carry bee sting kits in the event that a worker suffers a severe allergic reaction from a bee sting.
- Requiring employers to provide proper protective gear if workers are handling waste, including bird or mouse droppings
- Training workers to safely use electrical equipment, such as power tools and lawnmowers, as well as making sure workers understand the risks associated with such equipment.
Landscaping Employers Have a Duty to Protect Their Workers
Unfortunately, landscaping employees work with many different types of equipment outdoors, so they are at a higher risk for injuries, such as electrical accidents, workplace falls, being struck by hazards and exposure to extreme temperatures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 200 landscape workers die each year as a result of workplace accidents. Landscaping employers have a responsibility to make sure workers receive proper training, protective gear and equipment that receives regular maintenance.