5 Steps to staying safe as a Groundsman, is a blog with the best of intentions to raise our awareness of the dangers of working within our industry.These are only my observations and l am not qualified in Health and Safety, so just speak as a fellow turf professional.
Dig around and start asking a few colleagues or other groundsman and the stories start to surface. We all get tired; we all rush around and we can all run out of luck, sometimes common sense just isn’t enough.
The five things listed could easily be 20, these five subjects listed are the ones l have come across the most and spring to mind.
I have no grounds to stand on a high horse here, some of the things l have done have been stupid and other times it was just bad luck, whatever the heart of this blog is to just keep us all safe and keep the subject and awareness present. I am not an expert on health and safety, these are just some notes from a groundsman’s point of view.
Staying safe as a Groundsman
Whether you know/feel it, you are a vital cog in the wheel of your club, do they have the resources to replace you short/medium term or indefinite if a loss of life occurs, are you aware there IS risk in what your do? The club will probably have all kinds of health and safety policies in place for the protection of children and property, and they also have a responsibility towards you.
Clubs should be carrying out site specific risk assessments for those who are on site, whether you’re in a paid or non-paid position.
One- Cylinder Mowers
What can go wrong?
(What causes these types of injuries-?
Tiredness and time pressures and or a lack of training and understanding of how a cylinder mower works.
To Stay Safe – before putting your hands near a cylinder mower, turn the machine off. The cylinder may appear not to be spinning, but is it just blocked/stuck and even if it’s out of gear/engagement turn it off.
Before working on the cylinder, remove the H.T lead/speak plug cable.
Regularly check the cylinder disengagement handle works, as part of pre-start checks.
Even when the engine is off, any turning of the cylinder can restart the cylinder, unless an old wife’s tale, but just in case remove that H/T lead.
Checking the cut, using a screwdriver or piece of wood and along length of paper, cylinders are designed to cut paper, but won’t hesitate is taking the end of your finger.
Turn the fuel off, this will stop the engine flooding, while you work on it.
Two-Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Ear defenders, very cheap to buy and a good pair will probably last the season, why take the risk in damaging your hearing, will the club be able to bring back you’re hearing or help towards the cost of expensive hearing aids, for the sake of a cheap preventative.
The club can easily afford PPE, value your health and your value to the club and take responsibly for your own health. Said in love.
Any noise over 85 decibels is said to be harmful, your machines should come with a decal sticker (above image) if your machine doesn’t have one or is worn off, speak to the machine supplier who will provide you with another relatively cheaply.
Eyes protection, ever got a grass clipping in your eye (bugger to get out) or even worse a bit of fertiliser/seed then you know of how unpleasant an experience that is although minor. Worse it could have been a flying object, in the case of strimming or a metal splinter whatever there a number of ways being a groundsman can damage your eyes.
Ultraviolet rays from the sun, can also damage your eyes in a form of burning for the sake of wearing some cheap uv protective sun glasses. These will not only keep the suns uv rays out but also foreign objects, clippings etc.
Safe Boots/shoes/trainers in the form of toe caps, for £30-40 your get a decent pair to last for at least the season. It’s not really a lot of ask for a club to pay for, when they have a responsibility towards you.
May sound silly, but if a hand break fails it’s not unknown for groundsmen’s feet to take the weight of the machine, as well as this get a good pair of proactive boots will also help keep the feet drier and arthrosis out during damp periods.
Gloves, one way or another l have always got a small cut, scratch or graze and tend to take it as part of the job. But on the other hand, l have heard of hawthorn thorns that couldn’t be removed going septic. Personally, I have had some very nasty cuts to my hands, even just off a piece of newly cut chicken wire all very preventable.
Digging a hole once and didn’t have gloves on and a piece of flint sliced open my wrist, an inch to the left my luck would have run out and l would not be boring you with the tale.
Not saying we need to religiously wear them, but they should be on site for when you do need them.
Staying Safe as a Groundsman Three-Lone working
Lone working is very common in our industry, whether that be full time or as volunteer. I have spent much of my career either working in a small team or alone especially during the off season. I can come and go and not be seen by anyone from the club in weeks.
Some things to consider, what would happen if a machine hand break failed and l got trapped behind the back of the tractor?
What if l had a heart attack or major bleed on site?
Ways to help cut the risk of lone working
Take a mobile phone with you and tell the wife what time you’ll be back.
Don’t take unnecessary risks.
Consider/access and look through/carry out risk assessments, which will identify the risk in the first instance.
Ask for additional help, if no help comes be willing to walk away from certain tasks if required.
The use of PPE, thought this is the last line of defence, the first is to eliminate the risk altogether.
If lone working, carry out the safest tasks and save higher risk operations when additional help is avaible.
Take a break, tiredness and fatigue are a recipe for accidents.
Slow down, rushing is another route to an accident, we have all been there.
Don’t be a HERO, if it could end up costing your safety.
Four -Hedge Cutting
Strangely came up as the no one accident out there and also a recent memory for myself, with the scares to testify.
Hedge cutting, when working on the sides of the hedge can mean the machines blades are being directed down towards your legs and knees, what can we do to minimise the risk.
Risk assessments (site specific) if we can’t remove the risk by not doing it.
Don’t over stretch
Take regular breaks in the task and split into more manageable sections.
Take cutting in turns with another person, to cut down on fatigue.
Consider the purchase of a pair of chainsaw trousers.
Look for a lighter, possibly battery powered options, though obviously still some risk.
Don’t do when already fatigued (where l went wrong).
Look into the use of a harness and long armed hedge cutting pruning attachment.
Five -Crushing by tractors or other equipment such as rollers
Hand breaks/crush injuries, I am pretty good at putting on the hand break but also honest enough to say, l have had a tractor with a spiker on the back almost pin me to a wall.
We carry out regular servicing, so our hand breaks are always in working order, is yours or are you a little over confident and don’t always put on the hand break?
Being killed by the roller check out this Link-
Ever got off the roller to remove a ball or a object that has suddenly appeared on the pitch or the wind has blown a cover across in front of you? Again, l have done this, one slip getting back on the roller or mistiming how long till the roller reaches us it can happen and has happened to groundsman. Speaking to myself here, stop or reverse the roller off the wicket.
Tractor mounted equipment attachments injures, can be as simple as a ball socket cracks and the machine comes off the linkage. Loose fitting clothes get wrapped up in the pto unit at the rear of the machine, people die of such injuries every year. Danger to the public is also a consideration, so maybe take some time this winter to put together some risk assessments as a club.
Some other risk factors in bullet points to staying safe as a Groundsman
Being hit by a cricket/golf ball.
Tools/spanners breaking and possible impact on hands or body.
You or someone else injured due to a missing guard on a machine.
Hand and arm vibration, also known as white finger.
Working at heights, any height off the ground represents some risk.
Exposure to hazardous chemical such as diesel, which is carcinogenic.
Risk of fire, machinery, fuels etc.
What’s risk assessments will identify
Risk level of the task, who could be affected and to what degree. Followed by control measures and the end/residual risk.
32 Agricultural workers died last year at work, we are not agricultural workers, but many of us do have access to tractor and attachments and equipment that could potentially put our life as risk. There were nearly 600,000 non-fatal accidents in the work place last year, you may or may not be paid as a groundsman but it’s still a place where work is carried out and in that a level of risk.
Staying Safe as a Groundsman
Feeling overwhelmed, and just want to enjoy the simple pleasure of cutting grass and all this feel like a head ache. I get you and l am not in a position to ever tell you this has to be done but, l do feel l need to encourage us all to work safer and the only way in doing that is to start to raise some awareness of the subject.
I was inspired to write this after seeing on a facebook group, some volunteer groundsman with missing fingers etc and l though l needed to write about this. No one should go home with missing body parts or not even make it home, carrying out their passion.
As l said above l am no expert in health and safety, just a signpost to some awareness and resources (below) any questions just leave a reply below on staying safe as a Groundsman and thanks for reading.
Risk assessment templates – https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/risk-assessment-template-and-examples.htm
The Grounds Manager Associations also have downloadable risk assessments and safe systems of work to purchase- https://www.thegma.org.uk/shop/risk-assessments
There another good resource here from sports England , well worth a look- https://resources.thegma.org.uk/cricket/cricket-health-and-safety
lets make staying safe as a Groundsman, a priority this coming year.
For more useful resources check out our seasonal tool box-https://turfcareblog.com/toolbox-cricket/