In many nurseries and garden centers, it can resemble Grand Central Station with workers, equipment and customers buzzing around. Accidents unfortunately happen, but with proper protocols, training and follow-through, many can be prevented. Here we take a look at four common causes of mishaps involving nursery equipment.

1. Crashes

One of the most common accidents, according to Zachery Bruce, safety services manager with horticultural insurer Hortica, results in property damage when equipment runs into vehicles, buildings or garage doors.

2. Personal injury

The second most common accident, says Bruce, is when people get hit by equipment, whether it’s someone who had their toes in the way, or was pinched between a piece of equipment like a tractor or forklift and another object — this type of accident can be severe.

3. Falls from equipment

A less common scenario, but one that usually results in serious injuries, is when people are being raised improperly with an implement, for example, standing on the forks of a forklift or the bucket of a tractor or skid-steer loader. Without proper protection, it’s easy for someone to fall off.

“It’s not very safe,” says Bruce. “With a forklift, they actually have an approved safety cage that can be attached to the forks. If they have an approved safety cage on the forklift that is approved by the manufacturer of the forklift, they can use that as a personnel lift. But skid-steers, tractors and loaders are not designed to be personnel lifts, mainly because the buckets can tip on them.”

4. Overturned equipment

A fourth scenario — one that is not very common but nonetheless can result in a serious accident — is when a piece of equipment tips over. This can cause very serious injuries. If the equipment is equipped with roll-over protection, it is very important that it is used and the operator is wearing their seatbelt.

The best way to avoid these accidents, according to Bruce, is to have trained and experienced operators, and to enforce the training you give to employees.

“It’s one thing to have people sit through a forklift training class or tractor training class and go through the motions, and then see them out in the field operating unsafely,” he says. “It’s a combination of training and enforcing the safety practices of the equipment. With training, the companies that are doing it the best way are the ones that are doing a classroom training session and a hands-on or practical training session where the employee learns to use the equipment and then demonstrates that they can operate it safely. This is followed by an evaluation to say somebody who has the knowledge and experience to be able to train employees has signed off on that particular employee to operate the equipment safely. A training sign-in sheet and evaluation form should be retained for documentation purposes.”

For forklifts, there is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard that states that you must have a classroom session, a practical/hands-on session and then an evaluation. But Bruce recommends doing those three things with other equipment, too, even though it may not be required by OSHA.

“Maybe a safety video in a classroom,” he offers, “but a lot of people learn hands-on, so a classroom session might not hit everybody. So then you go outside and walk around the equipment and do a safety overview of the moving parts, pinch points, controls and operation. From there you have the person sit on the seat and operate the equipment, getting used to how the controls and levers work. Even if someone has operating experience, I feel it’s important for them to go through the company’s training program. The equipment may not be the same, and there may be hazards at your facility that they weren’t exposed to with their prior experience.  If they’re new, that person can take the training and demonstrate they will be a safe operator before saying, ‘You’re good to go.’”

Formal, written standard operating procedures can definitely help, Bruce says, but there is a caveat he makes people aware of.

“I do caution people that if they’re going to put something in writing, they really need to be doing it,” he explains. “The last thing you want to do is have all these written procedures in a book somewhere, and then you’re not following any of them or have knowingly violated them and have an accident happen. You can get yourself in more trouble if you’re not following them than if you didn’t have them in the first place. And that goes for any written policy you have.”

Nursery Know-How: Equipment Safety Checklist:

  • Be sure your employees have classroom and hands-on training. Follow up with an evaluation. Make sure the training and evaluation are documented and kept on file.
  • If you have written safety standards, be sure they’re followed to the letter.
  • Videos are valuable, but many people learn by doing.
  • Begin in the classroom, but then go outside and inspect the equipment to familiarize staff with the real thing.
  • Training is an excellent start, but enforcing safety standards is key.

This document is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should act on the information contained in this document without advice from a local professional with relevant expertise. 77-47  24001849 5/10/17

This content is sponsored by Hortica. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the American Nurseryman editorial team.