Nontraditional Labor Sources

Teenagers, workers 65 and older and foreign workers with temporary visas can be perfect fits for landscape companies’ part-time and seasonal positions. However, these groups present safety challenges that require awareness and vigilance on the parts of employers and employees.

The information below can assist both groups in reducing injuries.

Checklist for Supervisors

Teen Workers

  • Train young employees in hazard recognition and safe work practices.

  • Remember, operating a motor vehicle at work is prohibited for 16-year-olds and allowed only under limited circumstances for 17-year-olds. Child labor laws also ban those under age 18 from operating many types of mobile machinery.

  • Supervise teens, verifying that they use safe work practices and can identify hazards. Ensure supervisors and adult coworkers know what tasks young workers can’t undertake. Label equipment minors cannot use and/or color code uniforms so others know they shouldn’t perform certain jobs.

  • Know the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. This is the primary federal law regarding employment of workers under 18. The FLSA applies to your entire business if you have annual gross revenues of $500,000 or more, and some states extend the law to all businesses. Even if your business isn’t covered, the FLSA applies to individuals engaged in producing, transporting, loading or receiving goods for interstate commerce. This includes workers who handle documents related to interstate commerce, including credit card transactions. Two other groups of regulations outline work prohibited for young workers because the U.S. secretary of labor has declared the tasks too hazardous for minors. One defines agricultural work those under 16 cannot perform, and the other identifies nonagricultural jobs prohibited for workers under 18. See details at the links in the Additional Resources section below.

  • Check your state laws concerning teenage workers. Many have child labor laws that are stricter than federal laws.

  • Demonstrate to employees the proper way to drive while towing a trailer. Also demonstrate how to back up a trailer.

  • Institute a reward/incentive program for safe driving. The program should involve recognition, monetary rewards or special privileges to motivate employees to achieve traffic-safety goals. Also incentivize employees to report near misses.

  • Create a corrective-action program. It should establish progressive discipline for repeated traffic violations and preventable crashes. The program also should lay out actions that will be taken if an employee accumulates a certain number of violations or preventable crashes within a certain time period.

  • Ensure drivers know how to avoid exceeding gross combination weight ratings. Teach them to tabulate the weight of vehicles and their cargo.

  • Create a written driver-safety program. It should include training specific to operating trucks with trailers. Federal OSHA recommends creating a driver-safety program with the following 10 components:

Hispanic workers

Many landscape firms employ Hispanic workers with H2B visas to fill seasonal positions, and Hispanics make up more than one-fifth of the landscaping workforce, according to the American Immigration Law Foundation. Effectively communicating safety messages to Hispanic employees who speak limited or no English is one of our industry’s biggest challenges.

  • Know OSHA requires you to ensure employees understand training in safe work practices and hazard. This could mean providing training in the employees’ native languages. If you employ or expect to employ a significant number of Hispanic workers, consider creating a management-level “Hispanic employee liaison” position to better communicate safety and other messages.

  • Don’t use slang or jargon. Non-native speakers are not likely to understand it. When conducting safety training that’s being translated into Spanish, speak slowly, in simple sentences, and use different words to present the same message at least twice.

  • Don’t assume employees can read and write in their native language. Include photos, drawings, graphics, and demonstrations with all safety messages.

  • Use Spanish safety training videos. But don’t have them take the place of a safety trainer.

  • Provide English-language training to your Spanish-speaking employees. You can partner with local community organizations, literacy councils and/or community colleges to do this. Also take time to learn — and use — some Spanish phrases yourself.

  • Be culturally competent. Understand that questioning people in authority and direct eye contact with them demonstrates a lack of respect in most Hispanic cultures. If a Hispanic worker isn’t looking directly at you during safety training, this doesn’t mean he/she isn’t paying attention. Constantly encourage questions to help workers feel comfortable voicing their concerns.

  • Appoint a bilingual mentor for new Hispanic employees. Ideally, this will be a worker who has been with your company for a significant time. New employees will likely feel more comfortable asking this person safety-related questions.

Older workers

  • Be on the lookout for slip-and-trip hazards and eliminate them quickly. Falls account for more than a third of injuries sustained by workers 65 and older.

  • Minimize work likely to cause injury in older workers. Shoulders, wrists and the back are body parts most vulnerable to injury in these employees, so minimize heavy lifting, trunk rotation, excessive forward bending and repetitive work performed in non-neutral positions.

  • Encourage workers to use material-handling devices and equipment. This will reduce strain. Also promote frequent breaks, particularly after performing physically demanding tasks.

  • Rotate employees. Move workers among tasks that affect different parts of the body and require varying degrees of physical strength.

  • Train workers in proper lifting techniques.

  • Perform ergonomic evaluations of jobs typically performed by older workers. Identify causes of fatigue and strain.

  • Emphasize safe driving. Work-related roadway accidents increase steadily after employees reach 55. Drivers 55 and older are more likely than others to have a crash at an intersection or when merging or changing lanes.

  • Keep in mind older workers might be “set in their ways” regarding how to perform tasks. When asking them to make changes, emphasize that doing so is in their best interests and will create a safer work environment.

Employee Dos and Dont's

Teenage Workers


  • Know and follow safe work practices. You can request this information from employers, school counselors, your parents, the U.S. Department of Labor, and your state labor department. Do your own Internet research as well. See the links in the Additional Resources section below for guidance.

  • Understand you have the right to refuse unsafe work conditions and tasks.

  • Participate in training your employer offers or request training.


  • Be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure how to perform a task safely and correctly.

  • Perform tasks or operate equipment prohibited for someone your age.

  • Perform any task without first considering the potential danger involved.

Hispanic Workers


  • Realize your employer must provide safety training in a language you fully understand. You can read more about employer and employee responsibilities (in Spanish) at You also can reach a Spanish-speaking representative of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration at (800) 321-OSHA [(800) 321-6742].

  • Know you have the right to refuse unsafe work conditions and tasks.

  • Ask your supervisor to provide Spanish safety videos and publications. If you don’t completely understand safety training in English, ask for an interpreter.


  • Think that asking questions is wrong. If you are unsure how to perform a task safely or correctly, ask a supervisor.

  • Take on a job or operate machinery before you have been trained to do so safely. You should have no doubts about how to proceed.

  • Be afraid to make eye contact with supervisors and others in authority. In the United States, failing to make eye contact with someone speaking to you is a sign of inattention and/or boredom.

Older Workers


  • Realize that most landscape-related activities become more difficult for all people as they age. These activities include lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, standing for long periods and performing repetitive tasks.

  • Allow your body to recuperate by taking more breaks. If you don’t, fatigue could cause inattention, decreased coordination and shortcuts that increase your risk for accidents.

  • Pay particular attention to slip-and-trip hazards. Remove them or notify a supervisor immediately.

  • Use wheelbarrows and other equipment to move heavy materials.


  • Resist changes that improve safety. Performing a task a certain way for years without incident doesn’t prove the method’s safety; you could just be lucky.

  • “Work through the pain.” This could lead to complications far worse than the original injury.

Additional Resources

U.S. Department of Labor child labor laws --

Types of work prohibited for young employees –;

Information for young teen workers:;;

Info about employer and employee responsibilities, in Spanish --

Call a Spanish-speaking representative of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration -- (800) 321-OSHA [(800) 321- 6742]