Seasonal Help

Alan Schmitt – Area Vice President Loss Control

Arthur J. Gallagher

Summer is almost here and many of us are putting together a list of projects to be completed. We have numerous cleaning, maintenance, landscaping and construction activities planned for our buildings and campuses.

Many Districts will hire seasonal help to help complete many of these activities. So how do we keep our seasonal help from being injured and becoming a work comp nightmare? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Hire only qualified seasonal help.
  • Make sure your supervisors pay special attention to the work activities and habits of seasonal help.
  • Provide seasonal help with proper instruction, training and personal protective equipment. Don’t assume that everyone knows the proper methods to perform the job safely.
  • Provide instruction on safe work guidelines including such basic items as ladder safety, electrical safety, safe chemical handling, etc. (See safety orientation checklist at the end of this article)
  • Provide all seasonal help with a list of safety guidelines/rules.
  • Pay special attention to unusual jobs. Especially jobs working from heights, jobs working with chemicals in confined areas and jobs which require working in excessive heat.
  • If you hire contractors make sure you get the necessary certificates of insurance.
  • Consider the age of the person before assigning jobs.

As you might imagine, there are some special precautions we must consider when utilizing seasonal help. By following these basic guidelines and communicating with all involved, our summer does not have to be a work comp nightmare.

Some of the more common summer/seasonal hazards include heat related illness, skin cancer, mowing hazards, tractor rollovers and chain saw usage. Therefore it is important to review some vital safety tips with our employees who have the responsibility to perform these jobs.

Preventing Heat Related Illness

Heat related illness accounts for over 300 deaths annually and many other emergency room visits. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself. Among them include: age, obesity, heart disease, and drug or alcohol usage.

You can, however, reduce the possibility of becoming a victim of heat related illness by following these guidelines:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully
  • Pace yourself
  • Use a buddy system
  • Monitor those at high risk
  • Use common sense

Mowing Safety Tips

For most of us, using a push mower or weed trimmer seems almost second nature.  However, both of these pieces of lawn care equipment can cause serious injury. It is most important that all full-time and seasonal help are trained in the proper use and potential hazards of the equipment. What may seem like common sense safety tips should be reviewed and communicated to all staff, especially to new or younger workers.

The following should be reviewed:

  • Walk the area prior to mowing. Look for sink holes and debris.
  • Make sure you have the proper PPE(personal protective equipment) eye protection, hearing protection, proper foot ware and sun screen.
  • Make sure all guards are in place and properly adjusted.
  • Never fuel a hot piece of equipment. Store fuel in UL listed self closing gas can.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Especially kids and pets.
  • Avoid pulling the push mower.
  • Avoid mowing on wet or steep slopes.
  • If the mower needs to be cleaned, use a stick, not your hand.
  • Never leave a running piece of equipment unattended.

Special Safety Tips for Riding Mowers and Tractors

In addition the above listed items, riding mowers and tractors include additional safety tips and guidelines which should be considered.  Some of these include:

  • Make sure all tire pressure is adequate.
  • Make sure all guards are in place
  • If rollover protection is provided—make sure to wear the seat belt
  • Avoid mowing on wet or steep slopes. If necessary, mow up and down the slope.
  • Always wear the seat belt when roll over protection is in place. This is critical in a rollover accident.
  • Operate tractor at a safe speed.

Chain Saw Usage

The use of a chain saw requires knowledge, training and a buddy. Chain saws send over 40,000 people a year to the emergency room. If your maintenance or grounds staff is going to use a chain saw, it is very important that the person operating the saw is qualified. Some items to consider are:

  • Proper PPE.
  • The location of the tree to be dropped. The area it will fall must be isolated.
  • When cutting a tree keep your helper at least 2-3 lengths away.
  • Look out for hazards. Overhead electric lines and dead branches.
  • Use the chain saw only from the ground level and not from a ladder.
  • You must have a pre-planned escape plan.

Seasonal and summer help is very important and valuable to our school systems. However, as a school administrator you need to understand the additional hazards and risk associated with seasonal help. Safety training and communication must be a priority.