NIOSH Fact Sheet Tallies Landscaping Fatalities
A new NIOSH Fact Sheet, Publication No. 2008-144, contains guidance for preventing fatalities among landscaping workers. This might seem a healthy and relatively safe line of work, but the publication notes 197 workers died on average per year from 2003 to 2006, or about 25 per 100,000 workers in the industry, which puts landscaping on a par for high risk with agriculture and mining. Twenty-five to 30 percent of the landscaping workers and front-line supervisors who died during that period were self-employed, and the racial breakdown was 56 percent white, 29 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent African-American, according to the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
The most common causes of these deaths were transportation incidents (33 percent of all fatal incidents), falls to a lower level (22 percent), struck by falling objects (17 percent), and electrocutions (9.8 percent). The number one activity in which the victim was engaged when injured as using tools or machinery to trim or remove trees.
Landscape services workers do landscape and irrigation installation, lawn care, tree removal, general landscape maintenance, and snow removal. The fact sheet notes that most of the fatalities occurred on private property, with the large proportion happening at private residences. "Decentralized job sites, like those listed for these fatalities, are associated with reduced organizational and infrastructure support for safe and healthful work practices," the sheet notes.
Prevention recommendations include complying with all applicable OSHA regulations, implementing and enforcing a comprehensive safety program, providing training that is specific to hazards such as power lines, training operators of off-road machinery, and monitoring workers during period of high heat and reminding them about the signs of heat-related illnesses. The OSHA PLANET Alliance Safety & Health Topics Page is one of the listed sources for free tailgate training documents in English and Spanish.