Health & Safety has had a bad press in many quarters. From bans on window boxes (in case they fall on someone's head), to a general ban on something as basic as playing conkers in the playground; this is Health and Safety gone mad. Actually, this is Health and Safety completely misunderstood, misinterpreted and everything else in between reckons Paul Worster, Golf Courses Manager at Minchinhampton Golf Club
What we need on our golf courses is a culture of safety. You could define culture (in this context) as "that which is commonplace within a group". So, within our group of greenkeepers, 'Safety' (and, of course, 'Best Practice') should become commonplace.
I am not talking box-ticking here. I am talking about making the safety implications the first consideration when delegating every single task. This needs to happen on a daily, almost hourly basis. Why?
Because accidents, mishaps, minor injuries and so-on are expensive, inconvenient, upsetting and potentially destabilising for all those involved; and dealing with the aftermath is nearly always very time-consuming.
Trust me on this - accidents, even minor ones, hurt in more ways than one. You end up with injury solicitors being involved; every word you say or have ever said or recorded on a particular issue is dissected and taken down to use in evidence against you as the solicitors build the maximum possible claim. Your superiors at work then become involved - to limit their own liability - and you end up caught in the crossfire.
So, what you need to do is spend several thousands of pounds to bring in an expert consultant, have a full assessment carried out of your operations, and create a giant-sized file-folder created which is full of technical terms, forms to fill out, protocols to follow, and reports to complete ... right? No ... wrong.
Yes, granted; you do need a summary of the risks involved in your operation. But the kicker is that, whatever you have, needs to be usable and practical, and you need to find some way of keeping it live.
Hands up. Who has a dusty file sitting on an office shelf for which the club probably paid handsomely several years ago, and has scarcely seen the light of day since?
Yep, me too. That was until we had a very minor accident. I was accused of not paying sufficient care to the well-being and safety of the employees for whom I was responsible. which was extremely painful.
Enough of that. How do you promote safety on a daily basis? Here's one method which we follow:
First step: We have produced a 'Standard Procedures' document. In this, every task is itemised (e.g. green mowing, tee mowing, hole changing through to spraying, chainsaw work and so on), how to go about it and the risks involved. It doesn't take all that long to produce because most of the risks are actually identical.
Each member of the team has his or her own personal folder copy and they sign off each task to prove competence. So it immediately doubles up into a training record. So, as well as evidencing safety, you can use it as a tool for training records and to ensure adequate skill-levels within the team.
Next step: Every Monday morning, at 6.30am, we hold a fifteen minute staff meeting to include feedback from last week, a look ahead into the coming week, and any safety risks are highlighted. (In the winter, when there's less time-pressure, we show a safety video on a particular area). Once a month, we hold a practical demonstration of setting a mower, manual handling, using the fork lift and so on.
Final step: Annually, we will review all the Standard Procedures document, and all parties sign off to say it has been read, and we're up to date.
The best advice I can give is to get into the habit of assessing safety as a matter of course when delegating work. So, when asking someone to go and mow grass in dry dusty conditions, tell them to wear safety glasses. That way, you don't get someone rocking up back at the shed half an hour later with grass in their eye, bringing in the first aider from whatever he was doing on the course to irrigate the eye, when simply wearing glasses would have avoided it.
When it's wet and slippery, draw attention to any steep areas and order these to be avoided. That way, you don't then have to call several people away from what they were doing to man-handle the ride-on machine out of a bunker, or tow it back up the hill - or, in our case, out of the lake!
When someone goes out with the strimmer - remind them to wear the support harness. Far less fatiguing and more work completed in the same time. All this saves time and money ... oh, yes, and it ticks the boxes as well.
Sleep well tonight, and please, don't even be tempted!
This article first appeared in Greenside magazine, the official publication of the GCSAI