Safety training and tips for landscapers

Landscaping can be a dangerous hobby, and an even more dangerous profession. Hot weather, power equipment, heavy lifting, and repetitive work can all lead to serious injuries.

Employers can reduce injury rates by making sure workers understand how to identify and avoid common landscaping dangers. Safety training is essential for new hires, of course, but employers would be wise to offer continuous weekly safety talks. 

Short 10-15 minute on-the-job training sessions often are referred to as “tailgate training” or “toolbox talks.”  Frequent safety training keeps injury prevention top-of-mind.  

Ohio State University provides a large library of free tailgate training materials developed specifically for landscaping and horticultural workers. 

What else can employers do to improve safety?

  • Review safety practices with input from employees
  • Inspect safety equipment regularly
  • Keep tools in good working order
  • Provide personal protective equipment and be consistent about requiring proper use
  • Provide drinking water at every job site
What can workers do to improve safety?
  • Use appropriate safety equipment every time
  • Talk to supervisor about safety issues and help problem-solve
  • Know the capabilities and limits of machinery
  • Let employer know about any health conditions, in case emergency medical care is needed
  • Don’t take chances to save time

Make sure employees understand the safety training provided. Several resources offer free training materials in both English and Spanish. Check out the bilingual resources in the links above, as well as the Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture, which offers a video training, study guide, and evaluation package in both languages.

Monitor your meds: Preventing medication abuse

You might think prescription drugs are safer than illegal narcotics. Think again. In 2013, more people died of overdose from prescription painkillers than from illegal drugs. 

But overdoses are only part of the problem. For everyone who dies from prescription drug abuse, there are 130 addicted users and 825 more who are on their way to addiction by abusing pills for nonmedical reasons.

The problem is skyrocketing, and teens are especially vulnerable. One study showed that one in four teens misused prescription drugs at least once. And most of those teens report getting the drugs from friends and family.

Safeguard your meds
Would you know if some of your pills were missing? More than four in 10 teens who abused prescription drugs say they took it right out of their parent’s medicine cabinet.

Keep track of your prescriptions to monitor for problems. Hide your medication and, if feasible, keep it in a locked safe box. Talk to your family members, especially grandparents, and encourage them to hide their medications as well.

Dispose of unused drugs
One way to avoid theft is to get rid of unneeded prescription drugs. You can throw them away or, better yet, take them to a drug take-back site. Your local police or pharmacy may have a secure drop box for unused prescriptions.

If you throw your pills away, take them out of the bottle and mix them with kitty litter or other refuse to make them unappealing. Don’t flush drugs (unless the package says otherwise). 

Talk about it
Finally, talk with your kids about the dangers of addiction to prescription medication. In the short term, overdosing or mixing medication with alcohol can be fatal. In the long term, misusing medication can lead to a lifetime of dependency and heartache. 

Title mix up could leave you without liability coverage

If you own a business, make sure your vehicles are titled or leased under the business name and are covered appropriately. If your business is filed as a corporation, LLC, or partnership and you have a commercial auto policy, problems can occur when driving a personally titled vehicle on company time.

Why does it matter?
When you insure a personally titled vehicle as part of a commercial auto policy, you’re only providing coverage for the corporation, LLC, or partnership named on the policy. Liability coverage is not automatically extended to the individual vehicle owner.

Let’s say the roads are slippery and you hit a mailbox on your way to your local Chamber of Commerce meeting. Because the car is titled in your name, the mailbox’s owner could pursue both you and your business for the loss. And you could be on the hook for your own car repairs, too.

Bottom line
If an employee or business owner has a vehicle titled personally in his or her name, a commercial auto policy will not provide liability coverage for that employee because, by definition, the employee is not an “insured” — the business is. 

This employee, even if he or she owns the business, may be left without liability coverage for an accident involving a vehicle titled to them personally.

Now what?
Check with your insurance agent to be sure your commercial auto policy is set up correctly. Your agent should be able to add an endorsement that will extend coverage to the title holder. Alternately, you can set up a simple lease agreement, formally leasing your vehicle to the business. 

Borrowed equipment – A farmer’s most common coverage gap

Do you ever borrow a tractor from your neighbor? Or are you using a skid steer that belongs to a farmer down the road? Check your insurance policy. Borrowed equipment is one of the most common coverage gaps in farm and agricultural policies. 

Most farm and agribusiness policies have limited coverage of $25,000 or less for “borrowed equipment.” That’s fine if you accidentally crash your neighbor’s hay wagon, but it won’t cover a tractor, much less a $250,000 harvester. 

Consider the three Cs
Borrowed equipment, in policy terms, could be any items in your “care, custody, or control” as opposed to things you own. Any one of those three factors could trigger an exclusion, which means a lack of liability coverage. These “three Cs” include items you borrow, things you store for a neighbor, and equipment you rent.

Let’s assume something happened and you did wreck your neighbor’s tractor. Your neighbor probably has insurance, so their carrier will likely pay for the damage…and then their insurance company will pursue you for the loss.

Take action
If you borrow farm equipment from friends and neighbors, talk to your insurance agent about this common exposure. Many companies, including SECURA, offer several options for these short-term coverage gaps at an affordable price. Coverage options up to $250,000 aren’t uncommon.  

Whether you borrow equipment on a handshake or arrange a more formal rental agreement — the base policy limit might not be enough.

Call your agent and discuss your options for insurance limits. It’s possible your agent has already built in extra coverage…but maybe not. Find out for sure. It’s the neighborly thing to do.

SECURA celebrates 115 years — A look back

There were many significant accomplishments in the first part of the 20th Century, including the Model T Ford (1908), the Wright Brothers’ first flight (1903), and even the invention of the chocolate chip cookie (1930).

But before them all, a man in the rural Wisconsin farming town of Cicero saw another need for society following a catastrophic event that took place in the nearby community of New Richmond. News spread quickly about the 1899 tornado that ravaged the area, killing more than 100 people and injuring 500 others. Homes were destroyed and property damage approached $800,000. In modern dollars, that would equate to nearly $23 million.

One man’s vision
Julius Bubolz, a local farmer, decided that something needed to be done to ease the inevitable financial burden caused by future storms. On March 1, 1900, he shared his plan for a mutual insurance company with his neighbors, proposing that each member would have an equal voice in management and promise to assume his share of losses and expenses.

So began The Farmers Home Mutual Hail, Tornado and Cyclone Insurance Company of Seymour, Wisconsin. Known today more succinctly as SECURA Insurance, our home office is now located in nearby Appleton, Wis.

Times have changed
This year, our company celebrates 115 years of serving policyholders. What started in Julius Bubolz’s farmhouse with 135 charter members has grown to become a super-regional property and casualty insurance company with coverages for home, auto, commercial, farm-ag, and specialty businesses in 12 states.

The claims paid in that first year totaled a mere $78, compared to $235 million in 2014, and we now offer protection and peace of mind to more than 100,000 policyholders. Our first employees were hired in 1914: two office clerks who earned $5 per week plus board. Now, we have more than 650.

While many things have changed through the years, SECURA remains a mutual company that is owned entirely by our policyholders instead of stockholders and outside investors. We also have remained dedicated to the independent agency model, relying on the strong relationships formed with agents and policyholders.

Dedication to the community is what the company was founded on and remains an integral part of our genuine culture. Whether supporting youth development, education, environmental efforts, the arts, or providing the most basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and safety, we’re committed to making the world a better place.

Still going strong
As we look to the future, we’re investing in product advancement and technology to reflect the ever-changing needs of customers. We continue to build financial security and stability even during challenging economic times. Recently, SECURA was recognized among Ward’s Top 50 property and casualty insurance companies nationwide, and we’re consistently rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best. Our financial strength supports the reason we’re here: to meet our financial obligations and pay claims.

Current SECURA President and CEO, Dave Gross, serves as only the fifth leader in our 115-year history, attesting to our strength and dependability. “It’s still about helping our neighbors and being there for them when they need us,” says Dave. “That hasn’t changed. Caring for our policyholders and agents is not just a part of our history, but the fabric of all we do and who we are today.”