Navigating Seasonal Safety Risks in the Horticulture Industry

Hortica Safety for Seasonal Workers

Photo: The Sentry Group

The holiday season is almost here, and many growers are gearing up for a busy time of year. To keep up with high demand, many businesses often ramp up seasonal hiring.

However, a recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General has raised concerns about workplace safety involving warehouse and distribution operations.

Both trends could affect your team as they work to fulfill customer demands. Below you’ll find a few reminders to help keep your team safe, and your business productive.

Seasonal Employee Injury Risks

According to BLS data, more than 25% of all workplace injuries occur among workers who have been on the job for less than a year. New hires are often learning how to operate equipment, complete unique job tasks, and navigate facilities. Without proper training and oversight, accidents are bound to happen.

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Major retailers have already started their seasonal hiring spree. Horticultural warehouses and distribution centers will soon follow suit. With rookie workers coming on board, injury rates could spike. And the results could lead to increased workers’ compensation costs, legal liabilities, and lower productivity.

Now is the time to take a step back and make sure your greenhouse is keeping safety top of mind. This includes offering safety trainings, assigning mentors to work closely with new hires, and having managers keep a watchful eye on safety protocols. Here’s what that looks like:

Thoroughly vet seasonal hires: Conduct background checks for all candidates, especially drivers. Carefully review their driving records, previous employment, and references. Don’t rush the hiring process. Investing time upfront to welcome candidates could help you avoid longer, costlier issues in the months ahead.

Prioritize safety during onboarding: Make safety the focal point of onboarding. Have experienced team members provide hands-on instruction for all equipment, tools, and procedures. Go beyond rules and regulations to instill a culture of safety. Ensure new hires know safety is the top priority.

Emphasize safety daily: After thorough onboarding, remind staff daily about safe protocols. Lead morning meetings and shift changes with quick safety talks. Continual reinforcement from supervisors and teammates helps keep safety top of mind.

Conduct regular safety inspections: Inspect your facilities, equipment, and procedures consistently. If your team spots an issue, don’t wait. Either remove the hazard or repair it as soon as possible. In the meantime, communicate the issue to your employees to keep them aware.

Report and review incidents: Similar to above, document all incidents, from minor to serious. Reporting and reviewing accidents can help you identify potential patterns, including dangerous tasks or recurring problems. For your property, it may help you identify future maintenance needs.

Review policies with staff: When demand spikes and time gets tight, it’s easy to overlook safety policies. Try to schedule monthly safety reviews with employees at all levels. Refresh their knowledge of protocols and procedures. Encourage discussions about potential improvements and concerns. Upward feedback improves safety efforts and keeps your team engaged within their role.

Use ongoing communication: Don’t underestimate the power of continuous communication to reinforce safety practices. Regular reminders through emails, text messages, and newsletters can help keep safety at the forefront of your busy operations.

Celebrate safety successes: Positive reinforcement plays a pivotal role in promoting workplace safety. Recognize individuals and teams for their safety leadership. Reward safe behaviors. When you infuse positive feedback, you reinforce that safety is valued at your greenhouse.

Collaborate with your insurer: Insurers want to help you minimize risk throughout your greenhouse. That’s why I’m writing this article, and it’s why I visit greenhouses to assist with their safety efforts. Tap into their expertise. They can help you assess your operations and recommend potential improvements. They may have extensive safety resources to share with you.

A Seasonal Safety Culture Lifts Your Business

Seasonal hiring can provide a helpful boost to your greenhouse during busy times. The same goes for keeping your business safe.

When you reduce injuries, you also help minimize costly workers’ compensation claims, prevent OSHA violations, and avoid interruptions.

Talk to your local experts or insurer to create a plan specific to your business, and make it a goal to get through the holiday season without accidents.

If you have questions or would like to learn more, please reach out. I’m happy to help.

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