Safety strategies for your garden center

Added June 23, 2023
Wet floor sign in a greenhouse

Your garden center and greenhouse are places people come to enjoy the beauty of plants and indulge their love of gardening. However, these facilities can introduce their share of safety hazards—from heavy equipment and inventory-filled racks to wet surfaces and cluttered walkways.

Taking a proactive stance on safety not only helps safeguard your customers and employees from accidents and injuries—it can help protect your business’s bottom line.

Pay attention to common hazards

When customers visit your business, they expect a combination of physical safety and on-demand customer service. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to inspect your property for any dangerous situations and keep the grounds in safe shape.

Walk around your property daily to identify—and mitigate—potential hazards, including:

  • Wet floors and puddles

  • Sharp or protruding objects

  • Heavy machinery

  • Chemical storage areas

  • Unrolled hoses or extension cords

  • Uneven or cracked surfaces

Slips and falls

Slip and fall hazards at garden centers can pose a significant risk of severe injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million fall injuries each year, with associated medical costs of $14 million per year in the U.S.

Preventing slips and falls

To help reduce your slip-and-fall risk at your garden center, prioritize daily maintenance and housekeeping, including:

  • Keep floors clean and dry

  • Address spills immediately

  • Use mats or other non-slip surfaces in areas where water is likely to be present

  • Repair any uneven or cracked surfaces

  • Clear walkways of boxes, tools, and equipment—even hanging baskets, which take focus off the floor

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A hypothetical slip and fall injury example

On a rainy day, visitors and employees at a garden center tracked water and mud onto an uncarpeted retail area. An employee walking across the retail area slipped and fell on the wet surface, resulting in injuries to her hip and shoulder, as well as closed-head trauma.

She suffered permanent partial disability to her hip and shoulder, requiring significant medical treatment. Healing problems resulted in a 25 percent disability rating, and her head injury led to a cognitive deficiency that prevented her from returning to her position. Between medical, disability, and retraining expenses, total costs for this case exceeded $825,000. The business also incurred uninsured costs for elevated insurance premiums, negative public image, and a punitive jury award.

The investigation identified gaps in maintenance of the tile flooring. The floor coverings routinely became oversaturated during wet weather, but the business had no procedures in place to change them as needed. Additionally, the business hadn’t taken steps to remind employees to wear proper footwear during wet weather.

Establish a workplace safety program

Safety plays a crucial role in the success of any horticultural business. However, building a culture of safety from scratch can be an overwhelming task. It requires a collective effort and a strong commitment from management to model behaviors that prioritize safety and foster a sense of peer-to-peer accountability.

Here are several steps you can take to help protect your employees, customers, and bottom line:

Icon of a clipboard with a checklist and a checkmark

Conduct internal safety inspections

Create a safety-focused staff committee that meets regularly to review safety conditions. Consider implementing a daily pre-opening safety walk-through, particularly during busy periods. Additionally, collaborate with your insurer to schedule an onsite safety inspection, which can help you identify and resolve potential safety concerns.

Icon of two people with leaves

Plan quarterly employee safety meetings

Don’t overlook the importance of safety conversations. Meet regularly with your staff to reiterate your safety expectations and reinforce policies. Create a collaborative environment by encouraging employees to provide feedback, ask questions, and share their experiences regarding safety. Also make a point to:

  • Tailor conversations to specifically target the challenges and risks your newer employees face. More than 30% of workplace injuries involve employees with less than a year of experience.

  • Ensure understanding across language barriers. If your garden center utilizes an H-2A program, clear communication is crucial. Adapt your safety protocols and training materials to effectively bridge the language gap and ensure comprehension among all staff members.

Pair of gloves and safety glasses

Provide safety equipment and require usage

Ensure your employees have access to necessary job-specific safety equipment, such as gloves, goggles, hard hats, and safety shoes—and require employees to wear the equipment specified for their roles. Each of these items plays a vital role in protecting your staff from potential workplace hazards.

Icon of a gear and a magnifying glass

Train employees on proper equipment use

Whether the equipment is commonly or occasionally used, it’s important to train your staff on how to properly use and store the various tools and equipment used throughout your operation.

  • Reinforce proper lifting and moving methods to minimize the risk of injuries while assisting customers or fellow staff. This includes proper body mechanics and using dollies or carts when necessary.

  • Review safety rules for common equipment such as ladders and stepstools. Clearly communicate proper use, weight limitations, and inspection requirements.

  • Customize training content to align with job roles and responsibilities.

  • Use interactive training methods for better engagement and retention.

Icon of a wet floor sign

Empower staff to make customer safety a top priority

Recognize your employees as valuable ambassadors for your business. Empower them to take ownership of customer safety, fostering a collaborative approach to providing a secure and pleasant experience for visitors to your garden center.

If you lead by example—engaging with customers, addressing their safety inquiries, and offering guidance as necessary—your staff may be more inclined to make the same effort.

Icon of two speech bubbles with a checkmark

Promote self-reporting

Your staff are your firsthand eye witnesses. Encourage them to proactively identify and promptly address risks. Create a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting safety concerns and providing valuable feedback.

Why safety matters at your garden center

By prioritizing safety, you demonstrate a commitment to protecting your employees, customers, and assets while also nurturing a culture of trust and longevity within your operation.

  • Prevent accidents: Maintaining a safe environment can help you reduce the risk of accidents and injuries—and their related costs. The average workplace injury cost was $1,080 per worker in 2021. Fewer accidents and injuries can result in reduced costs related to workers' compensation claims, medical expenses, and legal fees.

  • Reduce insurance costs: A strong safety record signals to stakeholders your organization prioritizes employee well-being and operates with integrity and responsibility. If you can demonstrate you have a solid safety plan in place, and your business has a good safety record, you could have your insurance premiums reduced.

  • Avoid legal issues: Safety violations can lead to legal challenges for your garden center, including fines, lawsuits, and expensive claim payouts. Fewer injuries means fewer opportunities for these scenarios.

  • Improve employee well-being: A safer workplace promotes the well-being of employees, leading to increased job satisfaction, morale, and productivity. On the other hand, 41% of surveyed employees have left an organization because of unsafe conditions.

  • Enhance customer satisfaction: By harnessing your customers’ perceived safety expectations, your safe shopping environment can create a positive customer experience that also builds true customer loyalty.

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Your business insurer can help with safety

Creating a dedicated safety program takes time, planning, and employee buy-in. As a business owner, it may be advantageous to partner with your insurance provider who can focus on reviewing your current program and help you build a culture of safety throughout your operations.

Our Loss Control and Safety Services team works with you to help keep your business safe through risk management, loss control, and safety programs tailored to horticultural businesses. We can help you avoid hazards with various safety risk management programs including:

  • On-site consultations

  • Thermographic inspections

  • Targeted safety presentations

  • Training materials

  • Annual claims analysis

Learn more about safety and risk management

If you have questions or would like to learn more about our safety services and insurance coverages, contact us. You can also reach our Loss Control and Safety Services team at 800-851-7740. We’re here to help you keep your operation running smoothly and efficiently.

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Want customized horticultural insurance?

Talk with our knowledgeable representatives to help you find coverage options to suit your business.

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