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Advancements in Personal Protective Equipment

Safety First

The safety of landscape workers should be held in the highest regard, as the industry can be incredibly dangerous when standards are lax and equipment is not up to the challenges presented on worksites. Finding and correctly using the proper safety equipment and clothing can save lives.

Safety First

Husqvarna's Technical Apron Wrap Chainsaw Chaps buckle around the legs to ensure that the protective layer covers the entire lower leg. When completing tasks that may cause sharp debris to fly in all directions, it is vital to protect all body parts that may be vulnerable to injury.

While the landscape industry consists of several rewarding and purposeful career paths, it can be a field littered with potential safety hazards, especially for those working on the labor side of business. It is vital for companies to provide workers with proper safety equipment when working on jobs such as installation, not only for the purpose of maintaining a morally upright business model, but also for insurance and financial reasons.
OSHA lists the top six most common injuries in the landscape industry as sprains and strains, manual handling of landscaping tools and equipment, noise, heat stress, falls and struck-by incidents. The most prevalent citation that members of OSHA find when performing standard safety inspections is the lack or misuse of personal protection equipment (PPE).

Investing in PPE is incredibly important and can save lives in the landscape industry. In fact, in June of 2018, OSHA signed an alliance with the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) to raise awareness for safety protocol and PPE as well as promote outreach and communication about the proper use of PPE.

Current Trends in Protection
There have been several innovations in the realm of safety equipment over the years. According to a 2018 article released by the National Safety Council, trends in head and face protection have seen particular growth in recent years. Workers and employers are no longer satisfied with head gear that simply covers the face and head area; they are looking for helmets fitted with other safety attachments, such as earmuffs, face shields and respirators, making the preparation for safe landscaping practices several steps easier.

Protective covering equipment such as chaps has seen innovations as well. Husqvarna, for instance, offers several different kinds of chaps that are fitted to a variety of tasks. It is important to find suitable protective clothing and equipment for the type of work that is being done by landscape workers.

However, education is always vital when introducing new equipment into a work force, regardless of how well the equipment matches the task at hand. Just because a worker is wearing protective gear does not mean that he or she is protected. The gear has to be used properly, and it has to fit.

Safety First

Safety First

According to the SeeHerWork website, the number one complaint of women required to wear high-visibility vests on job sites is fit. This Class 2 Safety Vest that was designed to fit female body types exceeds ANSI / ISEA Class 2 requirements. Gloves offered by the company, like these Impact Gloves, fit the female hand and close tightly around female wrists.

Separate Gear for Women
Improperly fitting gear can cost workers their safety and, in some cases, their lives. The dangers of improper fit are more prevalent for women in the landscape industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of women working in nontraditional careers, such as landscaping, is growing. Unfortunately, according to a 2017 report from that same bureau, about 150 women per year lose their lives to work incidents that could be prevented by properly fitting personal protective clothing and equipment.

SeeHerWork is an equipment and apparel company exclusively marketed to female workers that officially launched in September of this year. Founder Jane Henry started the company because she wanted to see female workers in clothes that both fit and perform. Henry explains that women in the landscaping workforce have two options; they either wear clothes that fit their bodies but are not designed for heavy labor, or they wear men's clothes that are uncomfortable and baggy. Both options are dangerous, as thin clothing can tear and expose skin while extra material can create the risk of fabric getting caught in machinery. All members of a team need to be protected from injury, regardless of different needs.

The Specifics of Tree Work
One aspect of landscape work that is highly complex as far as PPE is concerned is the task of tree trimming. Not only do arborists need to don the proper clothing and equipment to handle tools such as chainsaws, but they also have to use this machinery while high above the ground. Therefore the amount of PPE that is required for such work is much higher than tasks that are completed on the ground.

While most landscape workers wear nonslip boots and sturdy gloves, these pieces of equipment must serve double-duty in the case of tree care. When a worker is on the ground, there is a risk of slipping and falling from a standing position; however, a worker in a tree faces a larger risk from a misstep. Gloves are another piece of equipment that is worn across the field. Some companies are offering gloves with more traction to grip trees and help workers steady themselves.

The most important PPE used by tree trimmers are safety harnesses, belts, ropes, lanyards, slings and carabiners. OSHA, in a safety report specifically written for arborists and tree trimmers, offers several general rules for the use of climbing equipment. Ropes that are wet, have been driven over or have been left in the sun should never be used for tree work. These factors can weaken the elasticity and strength of the rope, placing workers in danger. As with all PPE, just the use of the equipment is not enough to keep workers safe; they have to know how to use it and take care of it.

Safety First

This type of wearable technology could monitor heart rate, blood pressure, electrostatic charge on the skin, rise or fall in temperature, fatigue and other vital signs that our bodies give when we are distressed. Reportedly, this information could lessen jobsite accidents. These sensors are currently in the research phase and are unavailable for purchase.

The Future of Safety Monitoring
Certain researchers and engineers are looking into expanding technology that is used in other aspects of life to fit the safety needs of those who work in labor-intensive careers. For instance, SangHyun Lee, associate professor in the University of Michigan Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, in an interview with, discussed his research into wearable safety sensors for construction workers.
The sensors, when worn during work, can assess stress levels, physical demands and risk by tracking heart rate, skin temperature and electrical activity on the skin. The data compiled by the sensors could be used to understand and fix common safety problems in the industry.

Wearable sensors are an answer to safety risks that are rampant in labor-intensive work due to the ease of using it hands-free as well as the lack of need to stop and record safety data. Because the sensors can record everything automatically, workers do not have to worry about holding a heavy, cumbersome sensor in their hands or on their backs, or remembering every single safety hazard that they encounter in the field.

Lee explains that while mostly health care professionals have been wearing the sensors, he is looking to introduce them to work seamlessly in heavy labor jobs such as construction and, perhaps, the landscape industry.

Whether by the use of fitting clothing, new equipment attachments or high tech gadgets, investment in PPE for workers in the landscape industry is incredibly important. Such efforts made toward safety equipment can lower insurance premiums while also protecting the bodies and lives of those employees who make the landscape industry work so well.

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, October 2018.

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November 18, 2019, 11:15 am PDT

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