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OSHA's Region IV Seeks to Reduce Fatalities in the Landscaping and Horticultural Services Industry

As a result of the Regional Emphasis Program (REP) that Region IV implemented in 2004 to reduce fatalities in the landscape and horticultural services industry, the Region's area offices are conducting compliance assistance and outreach activities for landscape and horticultural employers and employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. These efforts consist of sending letters to landscape contractors and making speeches and presentations to a variety of audiences including golf course maintenance associations and workers.

As part of the Region's outreach, the Tampa, Florida, Area Office, sent a letter in May 2005 to landscape contractors regarding the need for rollover protective systems (ROPS) on zero-turn-radius riding lawn mowers. The letter explained that operators can lose control of these mowers when they are used in unsafe environments (such as on steep slopes, near ground drop-offs or water), leading to the mowers' rolling over and trapping the operators.

According to the letter, equipping zero-turn-radius riding mowers with ROPS, in combination with seat belts, can help avert serious injuries or death if the mowers roll over. In addition, if a mower rolls over into water, the ROPS may prevent the operator from being pinned under the water by the equipment. The Tampa Area Office shared the letter with the Area Offices throughout Region IV. As a result, eight other Area Offices mailed it to 2,925 employers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

In response to the letter, golf course maintenance associations in Florida1 asked Joan Spencer, the Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS) in the Tampa Area Office, to make presentations to their members. Because many golf courses use Toro mowers, Ms. Spencer contacted a Toro representative, who offered to assist with the presentations. The representative explained that Toro owns a line of mowers called Exmark and that both Toro and Exmark were offering to install, at no charge through the summer of 2005, non-foldable ROPS on their zero-turn-radius mowers that were not sold with ROPS. In addition, she learned that Exmark was supplying, at no charge, an informative DVD on operator safety training in both English and Spanish. From June through September 2005, Ms. Spencer and Toro shared this information during their presentations to more than 140 landscape employers and employees.

Ms. Spencer presented training to 40 students during a class, "Turf Grass Management", which is a part of the Golf Course Operation Management program at the Edison Community College in Ft. Meyers, Florida. During the class, she covered safety and health management and hazard information, including pesticide safety, hazardous waste, personal protective equipment and noise exposure. Golf course workers, wishing to move into supervisory positions, enroll in this program. Dr. A. D. Ali, who teaches the course, has invited her to make the presentation again during his next class.

Compliance assistance activities supporting the REP that have taken place outside of Florida include representatives from the Birmingham, Alabama, Area Office and the Safe State Program (Alabama's Onsite Consultation Program) attending the Alabama Turf Association (ATA) seminars. During these meetings, the OSHA representatives distributed written materials and answered questions focusing on how OSHA and the Safe State Program could assist the landscape and horticultural industry. They also provided informational materials in English and Spanish. Approximately 125 people attended the seminars, some of which were conducted in Spanish by a Safe State representative. The Birmingham Area Office continues to work with ATA and will participate in the association's 2006 events. In addition, landscaping firms are asking OSHA to speak during their sites' safety meetings.

According to Les Grove, Area Director in the Tampa Area Office, "We are extremely pleased with this outreach effort as it enabled us to work in conjunction with one of the major manufacturers to provide outreach to end users of the zero-turn-radius riding lawn mowers. As a result, we were not only able to inform them of the hazard and the corrective method, but we were also able to tell them how to do it at no cost."

For more information, please contact Joan Spencer, Compliance Assistance Specialist, in OSHA's Region IV Tampa, Florida, Area Office.

As of March 2006.

1 WESTEC Turf Equipment Technician Association, Orlando Golf Course Mechanic Association and Florida West Coast Golf Course Superintendent Association

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