Home Environmental Health and Safety Management Chapter 2: Injury and Illness Statistics for Landscaping and Gardening

Chapter 2: Injury and Illness Statistics for Landscaping and Gardening

by editor

Landscaping and gardening (L&G) is undoubtedly a hazardous occupation, but the risks can be mitigated by a constant awareness of the ever-changing workplace and the safety hazards that exist.

Landscaping and gardening (L&G) is undoubtedly a hazardous occupation, but the risks can be mitigated by a constant awareness of the ever-changing workplace and the safety hazards that exist.

To put the safety issue into perspective, statistical data can present a clear picture of the risks and potential for serious injury.

Safework Australia Statistics* of workplace injury and disease in period 2016-2017, show that:

• 38% of serious injury claims resulted from overexertion, resulting in body shear injuries, and
• 24% from falls, trips and slips. These are common injury mechanisms experienced in labour intensive industries such as L&G.

Statistics for nature of injury show a high occurrence of typical L&G injuries:

• 41% traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries.
• 16% musculoskeletal and connective tissue disease.
• 16% wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage. Statistics for occupational injuries also highlight L&G related activities:
• 25% of labourers.
• 14% machine operators and drivers. Statistics for work-related injury fatalities (2017) include high figures for typical L&G occupations:
• Machine operators and drivers – 7.1 per 100k workers
• Labourers – 4.6 per 100k workers This clearly highlights the hazardous nature of the L&G industry, and strongly indicates the need for everyone involved to concentrate on improving safety culture, an instinctive awareness of self-preservation, and a respect for the safety of others around them.

Safety culture is not just a strict following of safety rules, but an innate sense of awareness of work surroundings, and instinctive risk assessment of every action taken.

Some workers tend to “rebel” against mandatory safety measures, authority and rules in general, and a true safety culture may take generations to achieve.

*Reference: Safework Australia Workplace injury and disease- Key WHS Statistics Australia 2018.

Safework Australia compiles, analyses and reports on a range of WHS and workers’ compensation data to provide a national picture of work-related injuries, fatalities and diseases. If you don’t see the statistics you’re after on our website, please request them using the enquiries form or email statsonline@swa.gov.au

Examples of the Workplace Hazards that lead to L&G Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Claims include:

• Falls, trips and slips, falling from heights: Dangers can include falling from a tree, ladder, deck, or other height, or slipping and falling on wet grass or other surfaces. Workers can suffer debilitating back, shoulder or spinal injuries, or head injuries that can make it impossible for them to continue working.
• Sprains and strains, repetitive stress and overexertion Injuries: Improper handling and lifting of heavy or bulky objects is a major source of strains, sprains, neck injuries, back injuries, and hernias. These injuries can be very painful and chronic, affecting your quality of life for weeks, months, or years, preventing you from working or enjoying life in general.
• Transportation accidents, vehicle related: Landscape workers must travel between jobs, often driving large trucks or pick-ups with attached trailers. Workers can suffer long-term injuries or death in vehicle accidents while going to the next worksite.
• Struck by or caught between objects, machine entanglement: Workers can be crushed by or caught between heavy machinery, like riding lawnmowers, tractors, and backhoes, or they can be hit by large tree branches, trees, or other objects. Some of the injuries caused by these accidents can result in long-term disabilities or death.
• Extreme weather: Workers do not have the luxury of working only when the weather is nice. They risk heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, in the hot summer months.
• Electrical accidents: Landscapers digging near electrical wires may come in contact with overhead electrical lines, or work with defective tools using electricity, and can suffer an electrical shock or electrocution.
• Power tools: Landscapers work with a variety of power tools, including lawnmowers, chainsaws, and tree trimmers. When an accident happens, a worker can suffer serious lacerations, burns, eye injuries, broken bones, and amputations.
• Chemicals: Landscapers are exposed to toxic chemicals from the fertilisers, weed killers, and other chemicals they use during their workday. This long-term exposure can cause them to develop occupational illnesses, such as respiratory illnesses or cancer.
• Biohazards: These can also cause serious health risks, through contact with animals, animal matter or animal products, or through direct transmission from insect bites, venomous snakes, spiders, or contact with toxic fungi, etc.

o Insect bites: Landscapers are at risk of mosquito, bee, spider, wasp, and other insect bites. With the dangers of contracting the Zika virus and other illnesses from insect bites, this is becoming a more serious worry for L&G workers.

o Snake bites: Australia is well known for the wide range of venomous snakes, which can be very aggressive and dangerous, especially in the warmer summer months and when disturbed.
o Illnesses: Other than chemical or insect exposure, illnesses such as dermatitis, tetanus, allergies, etc. can be contracted from the workplace environment if the appropriate PPE is not used.

It is crucial that each worker uses the process of Risk Assessment as a tool to ensure the safety of themselves and others.

This can be intuitive as a way of life, involvement in formal SWMS development/Tool Box Meetings together with management and workmates, active implementation and assessment of risk control measures applied, and ongoing awareness of their changing surroundings on different jobsites.

This attitude will surely help to keep oneself and others safe, and reduce the injury and illness statistics.

Worksafe Victoria and Safework Australia websites are some of the great resources readily available should you have any questions regarding safety in the workplace.

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