Measure your safety systems

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An integrated measurement system is critical for a company to measure safety empirically, establish safety goals and track safety improvement.

January 18, 2013
Steve Cesare

Steve Cesare

An integrated measurement system is critical for a company to measure safety empirically, establish safety goals and track safety improvement. This measurement system should include simple yet comprehensive checklists used at pre-determined points throughout the year.

Weekly. Vehicle and trailer safety audits must be conducted each week. According to a defined schedule (i.e., every Monday morning), the driver of each company vehicle should perform a visual and operational review of items for the vehicle (e.g., brakes, battery, horn, windshield wipers, tire tread/pressure, fluid leaks under the vehicle, seat belts, lights, windows, mirrors, steering, coolant/oil/fluid levels, engine idle, first aid kit, injury reporting forms) and trailer (e.g., coupler, cross-over connection chains, tires, lights, reflectors, electrical plugs, mounting bolts/pins, bed, gate, frame, wheel chocks, rack, and ramp) using a basic pass/fail format checklist. The signed checklist is then forwarded to the account manager for review. All “approved” forms should be filed by asset number as documentation, while “action” forms must be assigned to the mechanic or office manager for specified repair, replacement and tracking.

Monthly. Yard safety audits should be performed on a monthly basis. The safety coordinator or account manager should complete these visual inspections in less than 30 minutes, using a checklist that includes the following: OSHA workplace poster is properly displayed, Right to Know Station contains current MSDS and safety information, fire extinguishers are properly mounted and fully charged, first aid kits are available, “No Smoking” signs are posted, all chemical containers are properly labeled, gasoline and oil are not stored or transferred in open containers, evacuation plan is displayed, blade sharpeners have face shields, employees always wear proper PPE, flammable materials are stored properly, lockout/tagout procedures are in place, interior/exterior lighting works correctly, and the yard/shop is neat, clean, and safe.

The yard safety audits should be presented directly to management to ensure hierarchical awareness, action plan development and necessary follow-up, all of which contribute to a safe work environment.

Quarterly. Given that most work injuries occur on the job site, the safety coordinator or account manager should conduct a safety audit at each work location once every three months.

The job site safety checklist should contain items including: cracks or raised asphalt/sidewalk, raised or sunken grates or stepping stones, uneven ground surfaces, holes, water puddles, slippery surfaces, dead or low-hanging tree branches, missing lids, glass, irregular steps, debris, erosion, slopes, heaving tree roots, diseased plants/trees, guy wires, problems with drains or v-ditches, pests, fruit drop, entrance to and exit from the job site are free from obstruction, presence of poison oak, painted curbs and fire zones, and unmarked underground utilities. These job site safety audits should be reviewed by the account manager, safety coordinator, and foreman each quarter, and be compared to the previous quarterly job site safety audit to track improvement, identify safety/hazard themes, and ensure all hazards are communicated to the employees and clients.

Annually. Every January, all landscapers should conduct a thorough company-wide safety audit. Due to the extensive detail inherent within this type of audit, the general manager or safety coordinator may need several days to complete the process correctly.

This safety audit should contain multiple categories like: posters, record-keeping, medical services and first aid, safety program management, general work environment, tools and equipment, machinery (e.g., hazards, maintenance, repair, safeguards, lockout/tagout), electrical safety, fire protection (e.g., extinguishers, flammable materials, fueling procedures), PPE, vehicles, hazard communication, compressors, heat illness prevention, and employee training programs.

Summary. Rather than creating safety checklists from scratch and risking an error of omission, landscapers should contact a safety consultant, human resources professional, or workers’ compensation vendor for existing audit documents capable of being customized.

From that point forward, the safety measurement system will be able to track a company’s safety improvements with empirical accuracy.

Steve Cesare is an industrial psychologist with the Harvest Group, a landscape consulting group. Send your HR questions to