photo: Lurin

Many aspects of your work as a golf course superintendent are dictated by the season. I don’t mean golf season, I mean the meteorological seasons. Not just the dates on the calendar, but first frost, last frost, soil temperatures, number of growing degree days, daylight hours and other weather-related factors that change as earth makes its annual trip around the sun — a busy season and what is often referred to as the offseason.

When it starts, and just how “off” your offseason is, depends on where you’re located, but many superintendents are about to enter the fall season. This usually means less time spent on routine maintenance, and more time for projects, equipment maintenance and restoration. It also means you’ll have time to catch up on various administrative tasks such as budget preparation; employee evaluations; inventory and ordering chemicals and supplies; evaluating and updating safety programs. But before I go any further, I want to be perfectly clear on this — safety training is not an offseason task. The full benefits of safety training are only realized when you hold regularly scheduled training sessions throughout the year.

OK, so safety training is important throughout the year, but there are some other safety practices that are well suited for your offseason. For any program to be successful over the long haul, it should be evaluated periodically to identify what’s working and what’s not. One of the best ways to evaluate your safety program is to review your record of accidents and injuries through the year. You are keeping a written record of work-related injuries, aren’t you?

OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says keeping track of work-related injuries and illnesses, and annually reviewing that record, can help you prevent accidents in the future. That is one of the reasons OSHA requires employers to fill out form 300 for any workplace injury that results in:

  • Days away from work.
  • Restricted work or transfer to another job.
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • A significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional.

I know what you’re thinking, “oh no, not another government form to fill out.” But contrary to what you’d expect from government paperwork, this one is organized and easy to fill in. You simply record the name of the person injured, when and where the injury happened, the nature of the injury, and if any work days were missed. Keep in mind, some injury or illness information can be considered personal and confidential. There are guidelines for protecting the employee’s privacy, including leaving their name or other identifying information out of the report for certain qualifying injuries.

You’re also required to compile an annual summary form 300A, and complete an Injury and Illness Incident Report on form 301. If you’re not familiar with OSHA form 300 and related forms 300A and 301, you can download the forms and find more information at www.osha.gov/recordkeeping.

The Injury and Illness Incident Report, form 301, is a little more involved than the 300 log, but not any more complicated. Form 300A, the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, is just a tally of the total number of injuries and days of work missed from the 300 log.

When evaluating your programs, you need accurate data, and the more information you have, the better. These forms provide the information you need to identify hazards, train employees, and reduce accidents and injuries.

If you have less than 250 employees, you don’t have to submit these forms to OSHA, but Injury and Illness Incident Reports, form 301, must be kept on record for five years, and the annual summary, form 300A, must be posted and available for all employees to review from Feb. 1 to April 30 following the year reported.

Written programs

Written plans and policies are a cornerstone of a comprehensive safety program. You probably already have policies in place addressing each of these safety issues, but you may not have bothered to formalize that policy by writing it down. The offseason is a great time to do that. It might seem like a lot of trouble, but taking the time to write something down shows a level of commitment beyond just saying it.

Start with a written Safety Policy Statement that outlines your commitment to safety. It basically says, “We take safety seriously and will provide a safe work environment, follow safety regulations, and train our employees to recognize and reduce workplace hazards.” You’ll also want to include sections on employee expectations, conduct and discipline; accident investigation and hazard correction; and record keeping.

Your written Fire Plan includes details about physical structures, potential fire hazards, fire prevention policies and instructions on what to do if there is a fire. These are all things you’ve probably thought about. Now take a few minutes, write them down and share them with your crew.

There are five parts to a Hazard Communication Plan. You probably have the first four covered, but many superintendents are not aware of the written plan requirement.

  1. Keep a written inventory of all hazardous materials.
  2. Have proper labels on all hazardous materials.
  3. Have SDS sheets available for all hazardous materials.
  4. Train your employees to recognize and handle hazardous materials they may encounter while performing their job.
  5. Have a written Hazard Communication Plan.

Your written Hazard Communication Plan simply ties this all together. It’s a clear statement of how you will comply with the program, where the inventory and SDS book is located, and who is responsible for administering the program.

Finally, a PPE Assessment is a list of the Personal Protection Equipment required to operate each piece of equipment or perform a specific task. Operators manuals for each piece of equipment will have a section on required PPE. Make a chart or spreadsheet with jobs on one side and a list of required and recommended PPE next to each job. I’ve seen a PPE assessment laid out with pictures, and it’s a very effective way to communicate.

There are many benefits to evaluating a safety program and writing clear policy statements during the offseason, but the most important benefit is the clear message you send to your crew that you care about them and want them to go home each day in the same healthy condition they started it.

Mickey McCord is the founder of McCord Golf Services and Safety, providing safety training for superintendents and turf maintenance crews.