It’s that time of year again when garden centers get busy. Customers come in ready to add a little color to their lives after a long winter. What you don’t want them to add is an injury while they’re shopping. The same is true for your workers keeping the inventory stocked. We here at Hortica found some of the most common pitfalls and have suggestions to avoid them.
Garden center injuries are generally found in 2 areas—slips, trips and falls, and injuries caused by improperly lifting heavy items. The first can be addressed with some simple housekeeping:
- Clear warnings: Let customers and employees know that the hoses are out and the water they leave behind can make floors slippery. Slip, trip and fall signs make everyone aware of the dangers around them. Algae is also something to look out for, since it can create a very slippery surface. Liability claims often go higher when algae is involved.
- Uncluttered walkways: Small plants and displays can be a hazard if left in the way of foot traffic. It’s especially true if something’s on the floor and can’t be seen around a corner. Also look for low-hanging items—such as flower baskets—to protect customers and employees from hitting their head.
- Proper equipment and training: Make sure equipment like ladders and step-stools are safe and in good condition. Employees should also be trained in ladder safety. In addition, customers should never be allowed to use any ladder. Some of the most costly injuries in the floral industry are the result of falls from ladders.
Working in a garden center often means lifting and moving heavy items. That’s why it’s important you have accurate descriptions outlining the physical demands of each job. Pre-employment medical checks will make sure a candidate is physically able to do the work. You also need to teach workers to:
- Lift the right way: Train your workers to not twist their back while lifting to avoid injuries like a herniated disc. Supervisors should also be on the lookout for improper lifting and give extra guidance if it’s needed.
- Know your limits: Set a maximum weight that’ll be a safe lifting limit for one person. Anything above it requires a team lift.
- Get some help: Encourage the use of lifting devices like a dolly or pallet jack whenever possible. And if something needs to be taken from one end of the building to the other, use a cart to make the move easier.
Of course, there are other safety issues you may face in your garden center. Mobile equipment like forklifts and loaders require separate rules and guidelines. The same is true for machinery used by your employees.
But remember, safety isn’t something you talk about once a year and then forget—it changes with the seasons. Have regular training and create a safety team to identify any new needs. Also, talk to a Hortica specialist to look at your workplace and design a safety program customized for you.