How to keep your company and employees safe.

Features - Human Resources

This is the sixth in a series of the top 10 most serious HR mistakes landscape contractors make. To read previous installments, visit and search “Cesare.”

April 11, 2011
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

Employers have an obligation to provide a safe working environment for all of their workers. Moreover, they are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance as a method of providing medical care to “cure” or “relieve” an injured worker of the injury’s effects, and supplying replacement income while the employee is temporarily unable to earn full income due to a job-related injury.

Landscapers are keenly aware of the interrelationship between safety, workers’ compensation and insurance premium costs.

A landscaping company lacking a strong safety program without professionally-designed workers’ compensation procedures will likely have large insurance premiums, wasted administrative costs and inadequate legal compliance that can lead to financial penalties.

Best-in-Class Practices.
These best-in-class practices help landscapers maximize employee safety, minimize workers’ compensation costs and position themselves as industry-wide leaders.

Safety culture. Best-in-class companies don’t simply have a safety program; they have a safety culture. This culture emphasizes employee safety across multiple touch points including:  new employee orientation, employee handbook, policies and procedures, job descriptions, performance appraisals, training, rewards and recognition, discipline, company core values and safety audits.

Internal processes. Best-in-class employers have well-documented processes to ensure all safety-related incidents (e.g., injuries, vehicle accidents, first aid, chemical spills) are responded to correctly, consistently and efficiently.

Safety coordinator. Best-in-class organizations have at least one full-time safety coordinator who is primarily responsible for supporting employee safety. This employee responds to all injuries, completes all administrative and OSHA-related paperwork, interfaces with the company’s medical provider network and workers’ compensation provider, conducts investigations and manages the safety program.

Measurement systems. Best-in-class companies have a series of tracking tools to measure all aspects of safety:  job safety audits, yard safety audits, vehicle safety inspections, safety costs, number and types of injuries, training costs, OSHA measurements and days away from work due to injury.

Fraud investigation. Best-in-class companies work very closely with their insurance provider to investigate all questionable workers’ compensation claims. Examples of fraud include:  receiving a “kickback” for making a referral of workers’ compensation claim to a doctor or attorney, working elsewhere while collecting temporary disability payments and making false claims regarding one’s health condition or ability to work.

Effective landscape companies are committed to providing a safe work environment for their employees, customers and communities. By establishing a well-rounded safety culture, landscapers will help keep their employees injury free, reduce their workers’ compensation costs and ensure their company’s financial success.

The author is an industrial psychologist with the Harvest Group, a landscape consulting group. Send your questions to him at