No business owner likes to think about an accident happening to one of their employees. But the fact is landscaping is one of the more dangerous jobs out there. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates around 200 landscape service workers die each year on the job from accidents—and many more are injured. When Frederick Oskanian, owner of Terra Lawn Specialist in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, was called about an employee’s injury, he got the situation under control and then put preventive measures in place for the future.
“I was driving one day when one of my employees called and told me his partner had driven the ride-on mower up a hill and it flipped back on top of him,” Oskanian says. “I immediately went to the job site myself and helped immobilize the employee—who happened to be an Iraq War veteran—while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. Being there to help felt like the least I could do.”
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After eight months of physical therapy and rehab for a back injury, which was handled by Oskanian’s workers’ compensation, the employee was recovered. There was no lawsuit and the employee returned to work, which Oskanian attributes to the way the situation was handled.
“We compete with one-man-and-a-truck kind of companies that pay their crew members under the table and don’t have workers’ compensation,” Oskanian says. “But one accident like this and the value of doing things the right way is obvious. Workers’ compensation paid back in spades for this single accident.”
Going forward, Oskanian also put some changes in place that he hopes will prevent this kind of accident in the future. While each two-man crew used to have two ride-on mowers on the trailer, he switched to each crew having one riding mower and one stand-on mower. Crew members are now required to use the stand-on mower for hills.
“This accident also solidified the need for a safety committee,” Oskanian says. “The safety committee meets to discuss potential issues and then hosts periodic ‘Tool Box Talks’ in the morning when safety issues arise.”
Decisive action prevented the mower accident from spiraling into something worse. And Oskanian is hopeful that being proactive will prevent future accidents.
“When you do the right thing, it does pay off,” Oskanian says. “I always look to treat my employees the way I’d like to be treated. Something as simple as that has gone a long way in this case.”
Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.