Preventing Injuries in New Employees

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate employees who have been on the job less than one year are far more likely to be injured than those who have been in their positions longer. Because our industry is composed of a large number of small companies that do seasonal work, employee-turnover rates are relatively high, making new-employee training an especially important, almost-constant concern. Our industry also employs a larger percentage of Hispanic and teen workers than other industries, and these populations present particular safety-training challenges.

Two key reasons new employees are more likely to get hurt are because supervisors think new employees know more than they actually do and new employees often are afraid to ask questions.

The checklist and dos and don’ts below can help your company address these issues and ensure new employees are educated and protected.

Checklist for Supervisors

  • Provide comprehensive safety orientation and training to all employees. Don’t make assumptions about a new employee’s safety knowledge.

  • Think like a new worker. Precautions that might seem like common sense to those who have spent years in the landscape industry might not cross the mind of a newcomer.

  • Don’t assume anything. It’s easy to think a person who has worked in the landscape industry in the past was properly trained by a previous employer, but that often is not the case.

  • Constantly encourage new employees to ask questions. Let them know you are happy to provide answers. New workers, especially young ones, often refrain from asking questions because they are afraid of sounding stupid. Hispanic employees might think asking questions of someone in authority is disrespectful.

  • Write down new workers’ health concerns and conditions (diabetes, allergies, heart problems, asthma, etc.). File this information where it can be easily accessed in an emergency.

  • Create checklists of items to cover with all new employees. Checklist topics should cover all hazards your company’s employees are likely to face and safety precautions they should take. For example, you could have a checklist for general safety, one for equipment safety, one for working with chemicals and one for working in hot and cold environments.

  • Make sure checklists include pictures to reinforce safety messages.

  • Go over checklists with new employees before they start their first assignments.

  • Sign and have employees sign a paper associated with each checklist after you discuss it. File these papers as documentation of the training.

  • Demonstrate safe use of equipment and PPE. You can do this as you review the checklists with new employees.

  • Develop a written mobile electronic device policy. This can be part of your driver-safety program and overall safety program. The policy should address whether employees are allowed to use cell phones or other handheld electronic devices (detail each type); if so, in what situations use is allowed and under which conditions it is prohibited (for example, while operating a vehicle, landscaping/construction equipment, etc.) Some options for cell phone safety policies include banning phone use by anyone in a vehicle while the vehicle is in motion, not allowing drivers to use cell phones and requiring use of hands-free systems (studies show using hands-free devices vs. handheld cell phones doesn’t significantly reduce risk).

  • Show workers how to use proper lifting techniques.

  • Have workers practice stop, drop and roll.

  • Show employees where equipment operating manuals are kept.

  • Demonstrate how to fuel and start equipment as well as how to change blades and strings.

  • Train employees to conduct pre-work jobsite inspections. These should include picking up objects that could become projectiles if picked up by mowers, line trimmers and leaf blowers. Also teach them to maintain a distance of at least 45 feet from people and pets when using these machines.

  • Show new crew members how to determine slope. Take them to a hill and give them a tape measure at least 10 feet long and a yard stick. Ask them to determine if the slope is greater than 27 percent.

  • Show the proper way to mow a slope with a push mower and a riding mower.

  • Hand out pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer labels. Ask workers to identify the PPE required for application and mixing. Also, have them point out first-aid and container-disposal information on the label.

  • Tell employees where Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are kept. Also point out the locations of emergency eyewash stations and supplies for cleaning up spills.

  • Acclimatize employees to hot weather conditions. If your company operates in areas where extreme heat is uncommon, workers are more likely to become dehydrated on a hot day because their bodies are not acclimated. Employees who are new to working outdoors in the heat or have been away from work a week or more also are at increased risk. Allow more frequent breaks and build up new employees’ workloads gradually.

  • Assign each new employee to work alongside a seasoned employee. Do this for a certain period of time to reinforce safety training.

  • Keep in mind teen workers’ perspectives. They might not have the experience to perform incidental tasks older workers can do safely, yet might take it upon themselves to execute these duties. They might also lack the experience and maturity to recognize and deal with hazardous situations or to handle emergencies.

  • Remember, OSHA requires you to ensure employees understand training in safe work practices and hazards. This could mean providing training in an employee’s native language. 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 assume employees can read and write in their native language. Include photos, drawings, graphics and demonstrations with all safety messages.

Employee Dos and Dont's


  • Tell your supervisor about any health concerns or conditions (diabetes, allergies, heart problems, asthma, etc.) you might have. This could save your life if you are unable to speak.

  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment for every job you perform.

  • Protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun and heat. Wear a hat, use sunscreen, drink plenty of water and take breaks as needed.

  • Protect yourself from cold-related illness. Select proper clothing, headgear, and footwear; drink warm, non-caffeinated beverages; and take frequent breaks in a heated space.

  • Review the operator’s manual before using any piece of equipment.

  • Be aware of floor or ground conditions that could cause a slip or fall. Remove mud, oil, debris, objects and materials from paths, equipment steps, etc.

  • Inspect jobsites for safety hazards prior to beginning work. Pick up stones, bottles, pinecones, sticks, and other objects that could be thrown by leaf blowers, lawn mowers or line trimmers.

  • Know how to safely maintain and repair equipment. Turn off a machine’s motor and disconnect the spark plug wire before changing blades or performing any repair or maintenance. Rest equipment on the ground when repairing or changing blades.

  • When working near roadways, wear a fluorescent safety vest and always face oncoming traffic.

  • Read chemical labels and follow all label instructions. Wear all PPE required according to the chemical label. Wash any clothing worn while working with chemicals separately from other clothing.


  • Smoke on the job or work under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Lift objects weighing more than 50 pounds by yourself. Use proper lifting techniques to lift objects weighing 50 pounds or less. Bend at the knees, place your hands under the object and straighten your knees to lift.

  • Endanger clients, bystanders, co-workers or animals. You should not operate equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers or line trimmers within 45 feet of people or pets.

  • Fuel equipment before it cools down or overfill a fuel tank.

  • Place hands or feet near motorized blades or strings.

  • Store chemicals in unlabeled or improperly labeled containers.