Ask any landscape contractor, big or small, if they have a safety plan and they’ll inevitably say, “Oh yes, of course we do!” But what does that really mean?
Not all safety programs are created equal. Sure, you can download a document off the internet that says “safety guide.” But there’s a big difference between giving lip service to the document in hand and actually integrating safety into the DNA of your company.
Safety is too important an issue not to approach with the utmost respect. The potential consequences of a safety breach range from the merely costly to serious and often irreversible pain and suffering for the individuals involved and their families. Nearly anything a landscape contractor does can, if mishandled, result in significant—sometimes permanent—loss to property and/or life and limb. Fair or not, safety incidents reflect on your image just as much as they do that of the contractor you hire.
4 Critical Safety Questions to Ask The Next Landscape Contractor You Hire
Next time you hire a landscape contractor in Georgia—or any contractor anywhere for that matter—here are a few things we suggest asking them. Use these questions to vet out how serious the contractor really is about safety, so you can put your company in the best hands possible.
1. What is your company’s EMR?
Experience Modification Rating (EMR) is a safety rating given to companies by insurance firms. A company’s EMR is an indicator of their safety record. Any worker compensation claim against a company gets factored into the company’s score. The lower the rating is, the fewer accidents have occurred. The industry average EMR is 1.
2. Tell me about your safety training program.
Safety training is different from technical training. Safety should always be discussed in any technical training, especially when it comes to equipment use. However, true safety training is done separately in a very focused way.
There are many good, established safety programs available to landscape contractors. OSHA has many resources. Many trade organizations, including those dedicated to the landscape industry, also offer safety programs and publications either free or for a fee. With so much good data out there, there’s no excuse for a contractor not to be implementing at least one on a regular basis.
3. Can you show me your safety testing results?
For any safety training to be effective, it has to be retained. The only way you can be sure your employees retain the material is to test them on it. Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor to show you their employee safety training test results. If they don’t test their people to truly benchmark what they know, that speaks volumes.
4. What policies do you have in place to ensure safety in the field?
You can have the best safety training program in the world, but employees are people, and people are human. All it takes is one tired or distracted employee spacing out for a quick moment for something to happen. That’s why safety rules need to be backed up with checks, balances, and action in the field. For this to happen, employees must have permission to call each other out.
Calling out your co-worker doesn’t mean to rat on them (although it can if they are habitual violators). It does mean to be aware of what the next guy is doing, and if you see him doing or about to do anything unsafe, to say “hold on, stop!” This is what’s called stop work permission.
At T. Lake, everyone has stop work permission. Any employee, no matter whether they’re new hires and/or not as advanced as others in the company, has the authority to call a stop in response to an unsafe situation. This “if you see something say something” policy is part of company culture and applies to equipment and trucks as well as procedures.
T. Lake’s Safety Training Program
If you are in charge of hiring landscaping contractors for your organization, you should be aware that substandard safety training is more common than many people realize. Like purchasing cheap materials, it’s just another way of cutting corners for many landscape companies in Georgia and across the country. Especially when things get busy and labor is short, it’s easy to rationalize keeping training time to a minimum. But the consequences of doing so can be devastating.
Here at T. Lake, we use the NALP Safety Tailgate Training Manual as our basic, week-in, week-out resource. We also make good use of other resources, such as the ones our insurance company sends us every week, or ones pulled from OSHA for specific hazards.
Weekly tailgate training is done usually crew by crew and led by a foreman or crew leader. We also conduct larger monthly safety trainings, which go more in depth into bigger issues. In addition, we require new employees to take a standard safety training protocol as part of the onboarding process. This is something we continually work on updating to make sure the information is always up to date and relevant.
Here is a list of the safety trainings we have completed or scheduled for 2019:
Looking For A Safe & Compliant Georgia Landscape Contractor?
If you are a company or general contractor looking to hire a landscape contractor in Georgia and/or nearby states who takes safety seriously, give us a call. Just reach out to us here, or call us directly at 478-272-3878. We’ll be happy to discuss any concerns you may have about safety and compliance as well as any other aspect of commercial landscape services.