24 Ways to Make Your Greenhouse Safer for You and Your Employees
Note: This article is the sixth in a series in which Greenhouse Grower, L.L. Klink Greenhouse Solutions (a national sales and service greenhouse provider), and Hortica, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group, are partnering to provide you with information on how to most efficiently manage your greenhouse. Check out the other articles in the series here.
Safety should be one of the most important priorities for any commercial greenhouse operation. A poor safety strategy/plan can negatively impact an operation’s profitability through costly workers’ compensation claims, increased insurance premiums, lost production time, poor employee and/or customer relations, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines.
It is imperative greenhouse operations review and update their site-specific safety risk and prevention plan on a regular basis. Here is a closer look at the top safety risks in greenhouse operations, and strategies to mitigate against injury.
Risk: Falls from Ladders
Ladders are necessary part of the business (checking vents, glass repairs, shade adjustments, etc.) and provide the largest opportunity for injury: falls.
• Train employees on proper use and inspection of ladders, and never use a damaged ladder
• Place ladders on a flat, secure surface
• Do not climb higher that the third rung from the top
• Ensure shoes are free from grease or mud
• Always work facing the ladder
• Do not overreach, and keep torso between rails of ladder
• Carry tools in pocket, attached to belt, or raise and lower with rope
• Avoid aluminum ladders when working by electric
Risk: Greenhouse Machinery Injuries
A majority of injuries from agricultural machinery are caused by human error. Injuries on machinery can be severe to employee and cause large productivity issues via shut down.
• Creation and distribution of machine-specific safety manuals and lockout/tagout procedures
• Hiring and training of competent and safety-minded employees
• Safety reminder signage on and/or near equipment
Risk: Hazardous Material
Hazardous materials (pesticides, herbicides, acid, etc.) are generally abundant in greenhouse environment. Proper strategy to reduce exposure is key.
• Training should be conducted for every employee handling or working around chemicals deemed as hazardous material
• Every employee should be trained on identifying hazardous symbols on chemical containers (e.g., corrosive, poisonous, flammable materials)
Risk: Slips and Falls
Slips on wet surfaces or tripping over objects can make up a substantial amount of greenhouse injuries.
• Keep all aisles and walkways free of clutter
• Educate employees to immediately identify, quarantine, and clean up spills
• Perform routine inspections and develop a housekeeping program for the facility
Risk: Heat or Cold Stress/Fatigue
Extremely high or low temperatures can result in heat and cold related illness or fatigue.
• Make sure all employees are trained on heat/cold stress risks, identification and prevention methods
• Ensure employees have enough water during work and are consuming water after work during high heat periods
• Dress in layers
• Heat or cold conditions may require additional breaks to rest the body from the elements with work stoppage during extreme conditions (some of which can be defined beforehand)
Risk: Greenhouse Construction
Operations are often expanding or renovating existing operations. This can result in a different set of hazards.
• Work with greenhouse contractor and mark off areas where construction will be taking place
• Inform all employees of the areas to avoid during construction
Risk: Lifting and Carrying
Improper lifting and carrying techniques can result in back injuries and falls.
• Education of all employees on proper lifting and carrying practices utilized in their jobs.
• Reminder signs throughout work areas reminding employees to consider using equipment to lift and carry objects that are too large
Risk: Greenhouse Fires
Combustible material in a greenhouse (plastic pots, certain shade curtains, insecticides, fungicides, oils, propane, cardboard) can all fuel a fire, resulting in severe damage/injury or death.
• Ensure adherence to greenhouse maintenance/inspections, which includes review of potential fire hazards (e.g., exposed wires, location of flammable materials, etc.)
• Educate staff on all potential fire hazards, protocol to address, and procedures to take during fire.
Remember that safety should be part of your culture, and everyone can be a safety manager. A site-specific safety plan that aligns with your greenhouse operation is critical.