March 28, 2018
At long last, it's spring! Landscape and horticulture professionals are now out working in the elements and there are many outdoor hazards that come with the change of season.

"We're in the middle of a transition from one season to the next," says Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) Consultant Kristin Hoffman. "We are still getting some winter hazards, starting to see some summer hazards, while managing some unique spring hazards. It's a unique time of the year."

Ideally, workplaces already have programs and controls in place for these hazards, but spring is a good time to review, refresh, evaluate and implement any opportunities for improvement. 

Six hazards to prepare for

Severe weather. Crazy weather patterns seem to affect us particularly in spring. There can be snow, rain, sleet, hail, thunderstorms, even tornados. Be clear about your expectations for outdoor workers, whether they are working onsite or in a remote location.

Dangerous driving conditions. In some parts of Ontario, driving in snow and ice persists well into spring. Other areas may be thawing out, resulting in flooding or muddy and slippery driving conditions. Have protocols in place for every scenario and provide refresher training on defensive driving techniques and distracted driving.

Flooding and high water levels. Washed out roadways and creeks are a definite hazard for both outdoor workers and drivers. Whether walking or driving, workers need to avoid flowing water (which can carry us or our vehicle away) and standing water (which may be deeper than we think and contain debris, tree branches or pot holes).

Slips, trips and falls. After everything melts, you need to protect workers from muddy, slippery conditions in your workplaces, especially in entrances, parking lots and on stairs. For service-based businesses, there is extra liability if customers are hurt on your property.

Sun hazards. These include heat stress, sunburns and UV radiation. It's easy to forget that the sun is no safer in April than it is in July. Don’t wait until summer to put your ultraviolet exposure policy in place, and provide proper breaks, shade and access to water.

Insects and vegetation. Poison ivy and ticks that may carry Lyme disease are prevalent in spring. It's important for workers to wear gloves and long sleeves, and use insect repellent when working near long grass or forested areas. Rodents may also have wreaked havoc on the wiring of equipment inside your facility. Check the wiring on all equipment that has not been used recently.
 

The WSPS website includes free downloads on a number of hazards and solutions, including slips, trips and falls, sun safety, housekeeping, working at heights, and more.


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