If you work on a landscaping crew with Juan Olivar, certain things always happen.
You wear your safety glasses and earplugs.
You have a flat shovel handy to keep your line trimmer from flinging dangerous rocks.
And, as he likes to say, "You leave work in the afternoon the same way you came here in the morning.”
In one piece.
Olivar, operations manager at Level Green Landscaping, won the company's 2017 safety award for keeping both people and property safe on his watch.
He talks about the comprehensive training Level Green crews receive to ensure safety on the job —and why it's important to property managers, too.
Before any Level Green employee is handed a piece of equipment to use, they get training in how to use it safely — from avoiding muscle strain with heavy equipment right down to wearing plastic gloves when mixing and using chemicals, and learning safe handling practices.
Brad Butler, manager of corporate safety, estimates the training crews get is a third longer than typical landscape crew training, to account for the extra safety instruction they receive.
Managers meet regularly, too, to review any safety-related incidents, from a broken window to a physical injury, and come up with a plan to prevent it from happening again.
And each new week begins with a Monday safety meeting to reinforce the rules and introduce new safety practices.
Safety In The Field
At the core of all this training is how crews implement it out on the job as they use mowers, trimmers, chainsaws and chemicals. That’s where Olivar comes in, as operations manager.
“It’s my responsibility to keep everybody safe,” he says.
Safety vests, earplugs and safety glasses are all part of the required equipment to keep crew members safe, Olivar says.
“If anybody isn’t wearing their personal protection equipment, I talk to them,” he says. “The first time they get a verbal warning. The second time, I write up a report. The third time, well, maybe this isn’t the right company for them. They’re fired.”
His no tolerance policy is in crew members’ best interest, he says.
“We teach them why it’s important,” Olivar says. “If you work in this field for 10 or 20 years without wearing ear plugs, you could lose your hearing.”
He knows workers might prefer listening to music with earbuds than wearing safety earplugs.
But not on his watch.
“Level Green cares a lot about their workers,” he says. “They want everybody to be safe.”
It Starts On Day One
New employees attend a comprehensive orientation that includes safety training, Olivar says. Crews watch a video that talks extensively about safety.
“The first day on the job, they learn how to use the equipment,” he says.
Line trimmers have to be used at the right level, he says.
“If you just start it up and go, with no training, it could be too low or too high, which is dangerous,” he says
Mowers, chainsaws, fertilizer spreaders —each piece of machinery has its own specific training.
Olivar teaches crews to use a flat shovel or a piece of cardboard to shield rocks from hitting windows when they use line trimmers. Any wayward rocks will hit the shovel, not a window.
It protects the crew members, too.
“The rock could hit a wall, then bounce back and hit you in the eye,” he says. “We want everyone to go home in the afternoon the same way they came here in the morning. If you came in with two eyes, we want you going home with two eyes.”
Inspecting The Property
Crews are trained to inspect each property on arrival, before they do any work, Olivar says.
“Before you mow, you walk the property, looking for any rocks, pipes, wire on the ground,” he says.
They check for any irrigation heads or pipes, and mark them with a flag so the mowers don’t hit them.
Crews also place safety cones around their parked trucks as a reminder to thoroughly check the area before driving away.
And they’re taught to stop power equipment when pedestrians pass, Olivar says, to keep them safe.
Protecting People And Property
Level Green crews are trained to inspect each property with eagle eyes, looking for potential dangers to anyone visiting the site.
Is there a tree stump that may cause someone to trip? Cracked, uneven concrete that needs repair? Overgrown branches blocking the view for drivers? They take photos of any problem areas and report them to property managers right away.
The same safety training that keeps Level Green crew members safe also protects any pedestrians, visitors and passersby on the customer’s property, Olivar says.
And it protects the property from smashed windows, broken irrigation components and other property damage.
“If we don’t damage anything, everybody’s happy,” he says. “If we keep people and property safe, we’re more likely to keep our customers for a long time.
“We don’t have too much trouble,” he adds. “I teach a lot, so they learn a lot.”
Safety First: It’s The Right Thing
It takes extra time, money and commitment to make safety the top priority. But at Level Green Landscaping, we do the right thing.
That means keeping your landscape not just beautiful, healthy and appealing, but safe for your employees and ours.
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 meet with us one-on-one.
We’d love to hear from you.