Harriet Orme from personal protective equipment (PPE) experts Zoro talks to Pro Landscaper about the importance of PPE for landscaping professionals.
For landscapers whose job involves a lot of manual labour, it’s crucial to protect workers from harm. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992) require precautionary measures in place.
Although other measures are available, landscapers should always have relevant PPE for the job they’re doing. It isn’t always clear what PPE is necessary however, so the following should assist you:
How will PPE help landscapers?
When working in such a demanding industry,PPE must be available to protect workers against injury. This includes potential hearing damage, skin irritation, and eye damage.
Although all professional landscapers will know how to manage and avoid hazards, these can still occur. This is what makes PPE so important to those in industrious jobs: Equipping for the unexpected.
When to use PPE?
It may seem that PPE should in constant use to minimise risk, but it’s not necessary unless the risk cannot be controlled in other ways. Using it when you don’t need to can even cause harm. For example, using a supportive back belt when it’s not needed can actually cause the landscaper’s back to weaken when it comes to heavy lifting.
Landscaping companies will have their own protocols for when PPE is necessary. But, legislation says it should only be used when it provides additional protection and other precautions are in place.
Also, be aware that there may be some elements of PPE that aren’t compatible. For example, safety goggles can alter the position of a respiratory mask, leaving the worker exposed to the toxic chemicals they’re using. PPE compatibility is a completely individual assessment – things that work together for one person, may not for others. This is why it’s so important that landscapers involve themselves in PPE selection.
What PPE is available to landscapers?
The PPE necessary will depend on the job ahead. The following are the main elements:
Hard hats should be a slow-burning and water-resistant plastic, that resist the impact from falling items. They should also have shock absorbing suspensions like a headband or straps. Hairnets will also be necessary for anyone with long hair that could tangle in machinery.
Ear and eye protection
Earmuffs with a padded foam headband will protect the ears and provide comfort to the head. Yet, as it’s difficult to wear earmuffs with a hardhat, foam earplugs are sometimes more suitable. In line with HSE regulations, any work that is above 85 decibels will require ear protection. Goggles or face shields will protect against flying particles, electric sparks, and chemical gases.
When dealing with harmful, or toxic chemicals like pesticides and fertilisers, covering the face and mouth is key. There are three main types of respirator necessary for landscaping work:
• Particulate respirator: Will trap solid particles like dust
• Gas/vapour respirator: Will absorb toxic gases or vapours
• Combination respirator: Will combine the purposes of the two former respirators
A professional landscaper might choose to wear complete gardening overalls to cover their body. But, they may need a special material, depending on the job at hand. For example, when working with chemicals or heat, poly-propylene clothing should be on offer as these are resistant to both.
Hand and arm protection
While metal mesh gloves can prevent cuts, leather gloves will be best for handling wood chips and stones. Rubber or vinyl gloves will also protect against chemicals, as they have a coat with a resistant nitrile. There is even blade runner sleeving that offers maximum cut resistance.
In general, safety shoes should be impact-resistant with steel toe caps as they will be non-conductive and provide good tread.
For sawing, leather rigger boots prevent injuries from falling objects and static electricity. The boots also feature a nitrile rubber sole that increases comfort and shock absorption.
PPE is not only a legal requirement, but it protects landscapers from serious injury. It’s essential for all landscaping professionals to assess their workload and build their protective kit accordingly.