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Golf staff safety and safety training

Worker safety at golf clubs By Bill Godkin, CEsafety

When you think of safety on a golf course, you think of someone yelling “Fore” after an errant golf shot, or you get an image of a golfer driving a power cart. But these aren’t the safety issues that have now become hot button topics for golf course owners, operators, managers, or supervisors across Canada. Some provincial government agencies are conducting inspections of golf courses to ensure that they are “in compliance” for safety by having safety committees in place, safety representatives trained, safety programs implemented, and safety hazards corrected.

A review of safety laws from all of the provinces reveals many similarities when it comes to the responsibilities of employers and their employees. For example, WHMIS training is mandatory everywhere in Canada for anyone handling hazardous materials. Current copies of the material safety data sheets for all hazardous materials must be readily available for the employees to have access to and they must be trained so that they can use them safely. This is part of job specific WHMIS training. Every employer should review the material safety data sheets in order to help them build their safety programs. On them, they will find what personal protective equipment is required, First Aid information, safe storage and handling guidelines and other valuable information. You can use this information to help you inform, educate and protect your workers.

Here are examples of safety legislation from various provinces that are indicative of the general safety requirements, regulations and culture that is becoming universal across Canada.

In British Columbia, under section 115 of its safety act, it states that the employer must: Ensure the health and safety of (i) all workers working for that employer, and (ii) any other workers present at a workplace at which that employer's work is being carried out. This is similar to section 25.2.h of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and other provincial safety laws and regulations.

In Alberta, safety legislation indicates requirements for the use of personal protective equipment. Saskatchewan’s safety laws clearly state what receptacles are to be used for storing rags contaminated with flammable substances. This is similar to the requirements in Ontario’s Fire Protection Act. In 2001, Manitoba announced a strategy to reduce workplace accidents by 15%. Its safety legislation instructs the employer to ensure that a competent person trains each worker before he/she begins work. This requirement is found in virtually every piece of safety legislation across Canada.

Slips, trips and falls are the leading causes of workplace accidents, especially for young workers in the service industry. If your golf facility has a kitchen and dining room, your employees are at risk of suffering a serious injury from a slip, trip or fall. British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario have announced initiatives to educate employers and young workers in order to reduce accidents of this nature. In Ontario, there have been television ads depicting a young person slipping while carrying a pan of hot grease in a kitchen and getting seriously hurt. This may have been based on a true story where a restaurant employee in Ontario slipped on a freshly mopped floor, put his arm in a deep fryer, and suffered serious injuries. The restaurant was fined $50,000 plus other penalties as a result.

There are golf course employees who have to work on ladders or in heights of over three meters. The majority of provinces have legislation in place describing what manner of fall protection must be worn, when and how it must be worn as described in section 7.1 of Nova Scotia’s safety regulations and section 85 of Ontario’s regulation 851 of their Occupational Health and Safety Act. If you employ workers who are asked to work in situations where they will be working at heights of three meters or higher, or are working over bodies of water, please pay special attention to the provincial guidelines your province has in place.

Most of the provincial safety regulations also inform the workers as to their rights and responsibilities. Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime and the Prairie provinces clearly state that workers have the right to refuse to perform work they feel is unsafe. They are also instructed to follow the safety rules established by their employer and to wear all personal protective equipment that they have been asked to wear.

Every province requires employers to form safety committees, provide them with training and the resources they need in order to prevent accidents in the workplace and to identify and remove safety hazards. This is very important for you, the employer, to pay attention to, as this is the most common mistake employers make! They fail to budget time and resources for safety training, programs, equipment and their safety committee representatives. This all too often results in poor safety performance, injuries, fines and higher costs.

Your safety committee is your first line of defense when it comes to safety, and a safety committee is only as good as the training and support it receives from management. Most committees are made up of a cross section of employees who have very little actual safety training and safety auditing experience. A one- or two-day training course can’t possibly give someone enough safety experience to adequately audit for safety hazards on an ongoing basis. That is why they need to practice their safety auditing skills. They need to spend time getting familiar with the safety programs they will need to put into effect, how to monitor their progress, and how to prevent poor safety practices from slowly establishing themselves in your workplace.

How do you know what safety programs will you need? Why are they so important to you, the owner/operator/manager/supervisor? And how do you know which programs are the ones you need? A Google search for safety programs will give you over 50 million hits. Another search for “safety programs Ontario” will give you 2.2 million hits. Confusing? Absolutely! So where do you turn?

Some provincial government agencies will tell you what safety programs you need to put in place during an audit, and then you may have a matter of months or weeks to get a safety program in place. You can buy some of those programs you need from safety program supply companies. They will sell you individual programs such as WHMIS, Lock out safety, etc. Then it is up to you to use these programs to train your employees. Someone from your staff has to learn the material, become your “competent person” and then be able to train the rest of the employees. Purchasing all of these programs can be expensive and doing the training can be time consuming. For example, purchasing a WHMIS training kit can run over $400 and then you still have to do the training. And that is only one program!

There are other programs such as lock out procedures, accident reporting programs, ladder safety programs, job safety hazard analysis, safe lifting policies just to name a few. All of your programs are vital to the ongoing success of your operation. You don’t have to be a large operation to have an effective safety program. It takes the owner/operator/manager/supervisor to buy into the concept that the safety of their employees and customers has a top priority. They have to support their Safety Committee and have a positive attitude when it comes to the overall safety program of their facility. Some HR programs can be “bottom driven” but not safety. Yes, you need your employees to buy into the fact that working safely is in their best interest but they need to see that management is totally committed to their safety and are willing to invest in a sound safety program.

Safety starts with attitude and it is the attitude of the owner/operator/manager or supervisor who’s is the most important. Without a positive attitude towards the safety of everyone in your organization, your safety program has little chance of being successful. Showing your employees that you truly wish to invest in their safety is good business. It is not by coincidence that companies with good safety records are very successful. Those companies with the good safety records also have successful bottom lines. This is not a coincidence! You can have a successful safety culture simply by starting with your own attitude. By not having a good safety program, you run the risk of one of your young staff members getting hurt.

Imagine the impact on employees, their families, friends, co-workers and your reputation in your community! Your members and green fee customers and advertisers would see you in a different light. Your business would likely suffer from the negative publicity. This may lead to injuries resulting in higher insurance premiums, overall higher costs and potentially a visit from a provincial safety inspector.

Yes, implementing an effective safety program, providing safety equipment and training can lead to some initial outlays of resources, but spending money on safety is an INVESTMENT in the safety of your staff, customers and future security of your operation. If you have an effective safety program in place, let your neighbors in the community know about it. Advertise the fact that you have taken the initiative to invest in the safety of those young people you have hired. The safety training you are providing them will help keep them safe at your workplace and make them more readily employable in the future when they take their resume to their next potential employer.

Some golf courses plan to provide their employees with a copy of their safety training records at the end of their employment so that they can provide any future employer with that information. Any future potential employer will be thrilled to see that on their resume.  So be proud of what you have accomplished with your safety program. But, if you aren’t sure where your safety program stands, if it is sufficient or even in compliance, get a knowledgeable person to assist you. Safety really does start with attitude, yours, the golf course owner/operator/manager/supervisor.

(Bill Godkin has more than 30 years of safety experience and has worked with golf courses across Ontario to implement and improve the safety programs, environments and safety cultures at their facilities. For further information go to: or contact Bill at . Phone: 613-384-2230, home office, or 613-583-3722, mobile number.)

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