Health and safety in landscaping

Working with machinery is all in a days work for those who work in land based industries. However, due to the nature of the profession, work related injury and illnesses do occur from time to time., so it is important to manage the health and safety of workers. Landscaper, Greg Bedson, reports on some key risks 

Manual Handling 

Between 2001-08 there were 3600 injuries to those working in the amenity industry as a result of handling. 

Manual handling relates to the movement of items by lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and in medical terms injuries resulting from these tasks are classified under a wider group of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The term ‘musculoskeletal disorders’ covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back.

Figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) indicate that MSD cases account for more than a third of all work-related illnesses reported each year. 

There is evidence that, as well as manual handling, heavy manual labour, awkward postures and a recent or existing injury are all risk factors in the development of MSDs. 

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR) require employers to manage the risks to their employees. To do this they must:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable, by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process.
  • Make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury from those operations so far as is reasonably practicable. Where possible, provide mechanical assistance, for example, a sack trolley or hoist. Where this is not reasonably practicable then explore changes to the task, the load and the working environment.

Medical and scientific knowledge stress the importance of an ergonomic approach to look at manual handling as a whole, taking into account the nature of the task, the load and the working environment and requiring worker participation.

Lyme disease 

Size comparison of Ticks on a thumb nail

Figures recently released by Public Health England, suggest that Lyme disease is currently on the increase in the UK, with the number of infections having risen by up to 35 percent between 2016 and 2017. 

According to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Lyme disease is typically spread to humans via ticks, after they have become infected with bacteria by biting certain animals such as rodents, some birds and other small animals. Infected ticks then transmit the bacteria to humans by attaching themselves to a person via long grass or foliage. 

Most UK cases are in the Southern Counties and the Scottish Highlands, however Stella Huyshe-Shires from Lyme Disease Action (LDA) explains that the disease can be caught anywhere in the UK and those who spend the majority of time outdoors are most at risk, particularly in grassy and wooded areas. 

The LDA has shared the following tips to help prevent catching Lyme Disease. 

  • consider buying permethrin impregnated clothing
  • use tick repellents on exposed skin
  • always brush off work clothing before going inside
  • always check your skin for ticks when washing.
  • carry a tick remover, so when sitting down for lunch and feeling a slight itch behind your knee, you can properly remove the attached tick!

Hand-arm vibration

Health and Safety at work
Hand-arm vibration can be transmitted from power tools

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted into workers’ hands and arms. This can be transmitted from power tools such as hedge trimmers, chainsaws and brush cutters – as well as through the steering wheel of driven equipment including ride-on mowers. 

According to HSE, failure to take appropriate measures when using these tools for prolonged amounts of time could lead to the user developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Signs and symptoms of Hand-arm vibration (HAV)

Tingling and numbness in the fingers which can result in an inability to do fine work or everyday tasks such as fastening buttons; Loss of strength in the hands which might affect the ability to work safely; Fingers going white (blanching) and then becoming red and painful on recovery, reducing the ability to work in cold or damp conditions, for example outdoors.

Signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) 

Symptoms and effects of CTS can also occur and include tingling, numbness, pain and weakness in the hands which can interfere with work and everyday tasks and might affect the ability to work safely.

HSE have provided the following tips to reduce the risks of developing HAVS and CTS

  • Ask to use suitable low-vibration tools.
  • Always use the right tool for each job (to do the job more quickly and expose you to less hand-arm vibration).
  • Check tools before using them to make sure they have been properly maintained and repaired to avoid increased vibration caused by faults or general wear.
  • Make sure cutting tools are kept sharp so that they remain efficient.
  • Reduce the amount of time you use a tool in one go, by doing other jobs in between.
  • Avoid gripping or forcing a tool or workpiece more than you have to.
  • Store tools so that they do not have very cold handles when next used.
  • Encourage good blood circulation by:
    • Keeping warm and dry (when necessary, wear gloves, a hat, waterproofs and use heating pads if available);
    • Giving up or cutting down on smoking because smoking reduces blood flow; and
    • Massaging and exercising your fingers during work breaks
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