Supervisors: You Can Help Prevent Groundskeeper Injuries
Groundskeepers are responsible for making sure school campuses, administrative offices, parking lots, and other property stays clean, safe, and looking good. It's a year-round job that gains steam in the spring. Supervisors are in the best position to help their employees stay safe and productive by following these tips.
Explore the Data
Injury statistics for jobs in the public sector are hard to come by. So, let's look at public sector data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2020, the most recent reports available.
How Groundskeepers Injuries Stack Up
The BLS notes that 177.1 of every 10,000 landscapers and groundskeepers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in 2020. For context, here are the incidence rates for other occupations:
- Pest control workers: 397.2
- Food preparation: 252.5
- Janitorial staff: 191.6
- Post-secondary teachers: 6.9
Injuries by Frequency
- Contact with object or equipment
- Slips, trips, falls
- Overexertion and bodily reaction
- Transportation incidents
- Violence and other injuries by people or animals
How Injuries Impact Productivity
Injuries and illnesses caused groundskeepers and landscapers to miss a median of 10 days from work in 2020. For context, here are the median days missed for other occupations:
- Pest control workers: 14 days
- Post-secondary teachers: 12 days
- Janitorial staff: 11 days
- Food preparation staff: 8 days
Use Your Fund Loss History Reports
Private sector statistics give you a general idea about the impact of workplace injuries suffered by groundskeepers. When it comes to workplace safety, though, you need a clearer picture. Fund members with Workers' Compensation coverage benefit from on-demand loss history reports.
You can use your reports to identify injuries by occupation, location, frequency, and location. You can access your reports from your Risk Dashboard.
Groundskeepers are assigned a variety of tasks. They mow, edge, plant, prune, and water school landscaping. They pick up trash, trimmings, and debris from parking lots and playgrounds. Physically demanding tasks include repairing concrete, digging trenches, removing trees, and loading debris into trailers.
The hazards of the job are as diverse as the duties. Examples include:
- Falls while using scissors lifts and ladders
- Heat and cold-related illnesses when working outdoors
- Back strains from lifting heavy items and hunching to work at ground level
- Chemical exposure while spraying pesticides
- Poisonous animals, insects, and plants
- Driving accidents while operating large trucks, tractors, riding mowers, and other machinery
- Hearing damage cause by loud equipment such as chain saws and blowers
- Eye injuries cause by flying debris
- Loose clothing that gets caught in moving machine parts
- Cuts and electrical shocks when working with power tools
Provide Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) puts a barrier between employees and hazards. For example, a groundskeeper using a weed cutter would be wise to wear work gloves, steel-toe boots, hearing protection, safety glasses, and a full-face shield. Chain saws call for the same PPE plus protective chaps and jackets.
Check the manufacturer's instructions to see which PPE employees should use. Before they start work, make sure they understand that PPE is their last line of defense. Employees should never treat PPE as a substitute for working safely.
Employees can be your strongest defense against risk if supervisors deliver the training they need, before they start working.
Make it relevant. Teach employees them how to inspect, use, and care for the vehicles, equipment, and PPE they use on the job.
Keep it fresh. Train new hires and employees assigned to new tasks. Then, deliver refresher training consistently throughout the year.
Partner with vendors. When you buy equipment, ask if the vendor will include no-cost safety training in the contract. One Fund member invited their chain saw supplier to lead safety training for the grounds crew. Our team joined the session and taught tree-trimming safety basics.
Tell, show, do. Let's say you're training a crew to use ladders safely, lift heavy bags of mulch properly, drive a vehicle that's pulling a trailer, or use fall arrest systems when working at heights:
- Tell employees what you want them to know.
- Show them how to do the task safely.
- Give them hands-on experience.
Change the Way Work is Done
Groundskeepers sometimes work in isolated areas. If you assign them to do the job in teams, co-workers can help if someone suffers heat stroke, a poisonous snake bit, or another serious injury. Sending employees to isolated areas in teams is an administrative safety control.
Administrative controls reduce risk by changing the way employees work. Here are more examples:
- Schedule physically demanding work for cooler times of day.
- Pair new employees with experienced co-workers while they're learning.
- Avoid assigning employees to work near overhead power lines when possible.
- Make it clear that employees should never use tools for anything other than their intended purpose.
- Stick to a preventative maintenance plan for tools and equipment to make sure it's in good condition and safe to use.
Whether they're trimming trees, pouring concrete, or operating heavy machinery, groundskeepers should know how to protect themselves. As your boots on the ground, supervisors are in the best position to give groundskeepers the tools they need. Use these resources to teach your team and make safety a value in your schools.
Fund blog posts
- Personal Protective Equipment: Your Last Line of Defense
- Slips, Trips, and Falls: Keep Your Feet on Solid Ground
- Safe Driving Basics
- 8 Steps to a Safe Lift
*Available to Fund members with Workers' Compensation coverage
Texas Department of Insurance Resources
David Wylie serves as content developer on the risk solutions team. He brings more than 20 years' experience writing educational content that helps employers protect against workplace accidents, property damage, cybercrime, and other losses.