While PPE is a new acronym for a lot of people navigating COVID-19 safety, it’s been in our vocabulary since day one.
In the landscaping industry, personal protection equipment has always meant safety glasses, ear plugs, and dust masks.
But now we join the rest of the world in adding cloth face masks, as well as a slew of new safety and disinfecting measures to protect against the coronavirus.
Brad Butler, manager of corporate safety at Level Green Landscaping, talks about the additional PPE that’s now part of our safety routine.
The Trial and Error of Face Masks
The cloth face masks in our PPE inventory are meant to keep dust at bay, not a health-threatening virus.
So, like everybody else, we searched for protective cloth masks for our crews.
It took some trial and error.
Crews wearing cloth masks with elastic loops that secured over their ears had trouble with their breath escaping from the top of their masks and fogging up their safety glasses, Butler says.
“They’d have to pull their masks off because they couldn’t see,” he says.
They tried treating the glasses with Rain-X, designed to keep windshields clear, but it didn’t work.
They discovered that the gaiters neck coverings crew members were using to keep the sun off their necks worked better.
When pulled up over their mouths and noses, the gaiters direct breath to come out the bottom, not the top, so glasses aren’t fogging.
Vendors have approached the company offering to sell them N95 masks, Butler says.
“Those belong to health care workers,” Butler says. “We don’t want to cut in on that supply.”
Supervisors report to work early each day to thoroughly disinfect their trucks, Butler says, wiping down door handles, seatbelts, steering wheels, consoles, and the new plastic sheeting that divides the front part of the truck cab from the back.
At the end of each day, they disinfect the handles of each piece of equipment in the trailers, using a mixture of bleach and water or disinfectant spray and paper towels.
Butler keeps track of the daily COVID-19 memos and updates from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as from the state of Maryland, so he can share the latest information.
“My challenge has been not getting the COVID info out, but getting the regular safety info out,” he says. “In landscaping, we have all kinds of safety issues all the time. There are extra things we have to do now, but we also have to keep the guys focused on our normal safety issues, so nobody gets hurt.”
Level Green’s comprehensive safety program includes weekly meetings for crews that cover timely safety topics, from avoiding physical injury to preventing accidents like broken windows.
These meetings are tracked and recorded in an app. Each week a report is created that lists employees who missed the meeting, so we can circle back around to them and relay the safety information. Keeping a record of all of our trainings is important.
“We can’t have 20 guys standing close together in a circle for our regular safety meetings like we normally do,” Butler says. So, operations managers get that information out in small groups instead.
Wash Your Hands. Repeat. Repeat.
Butler set up outdoor sinks and washing stations, so everybody can wash their hands every time they go in or out of the yard.
Crews have gallon jugs of water out in the field, so they can wash their hands out on job sites. They’re also supplied with hand sanitizer.
“The hand washing stations, providing a place for crews to wash up after a day of work, will stay in place long after this virus is gone,” Butler says. “It’s been eye opening to see that happen every day. They should have a place to wash the dirt off their hands and arms before they get in their personal vehicles and drive home.”
Creating New Habits That Stick
“We do a dirty, sweaty job,” Butler says. “We can’t telecommute. We have to go out there and work.”
Adding masks isn’t easy, he says. Crews are working hard, breathing heavily. Masks aren’t exactly comfortable.
“Everybody understands, week after week, they have to have masks on,” Butler says. “None of these things we have to do now come naturally. Breaking old habits is a hard thing to do. But new habits are starting to stick.
“It’s extra work,” he says, “but the name of the game is adapting.”
“I look for the end in sight and try to stay positive,” Butler says. “If you allow the fear and negativity to overwhelm you, nobody would want to come to work.
“I believe it will come to an end, and we’ll go back to normal sooner, rather than later.”
Health and Safety: Top Priorities at Level Green
The many new safety measures we’ve added are designed to keep not just our employees safe, but our customers and our community, too.
If our crews are sick, they can’t serve our customers. And we all want to do our part to help flatten the COVID-19 curve.
If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.
Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to set up a virtual meeting.
We'd love to hear from you.