Top Safety Tips for Landscapers

Landscape contractors and their employees face increased threats of injuries because of the nature of their work – some as a result of nature itself.

Severe weather, biting insects, sun exposure, and even animals are just some of the hazards that present safety challenges. Add back-breaking work, high-powered equipment use, and chemical applications, and you have a recipe for risk.

Landscape contractors face a number of challenges when it comes to keeping their
employees safe. These challenges may include risks like hot weather, power equipment,
heavy lifting, and repetitive work. Employers should take a proactive approach by
providing proper equipment, pre-season and regular training, and safety talks, especially
for new hires. Some measures that improve safety awareness on job sites include:

General safety
• Instruct employees to report chronic health conditions to their supervisor/employer (allergies, heart problems, asthma, diabetes, etc.).

• Report all incidents, including near misses, immediately to supervisors
• Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for working under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Wear protective equipment for job-specific tasks, such as boots, gloves, safety glasses, hearing protection, high visibility vest, head protection, and respirators.

• Be aware of heat exhaustion and take preventive measures for sun protection,
including SPF lotion, water, and protective clothing.
• Follow proper lifting techniques. Bend at the knees, place hands under the
object, and push up with knees to lift. Get help if an object is too heavy.
• Identify dangerous plants, animals, and surroundings, and maintain a safe working distance.

Lawn mower/equipment safety
• Provide training on various equipment per manufacturers’ specifications.
• Fuel and start equipment on level ground. Let equipment cool before refueling – remove the cap slowly and never over-fill the tank.
• To avoid smoke inside a trailer, place the exhaust system facing out.
• Do not operate equipment during severe weather conditions, including windstorms and thunderstorms.
• Walk through the job site prior to mowing to remove stones, bottles, pine cones, sticks, and objects that can create a hazard. Be aware
of standing water.
• Keep hands and feet away from blades and moving parts.
• Never pull a push mower backward or operate a riding mower in reverse. Mow from the bottom to the top of a hill.
• Only use a riding mower on a slope less than 15 degrees. Mow up and down slopes, turning around on level ground.
• Ensure that the motor is off and the spark plug wire is disconnected before changing blades or performing repairs.
• Use two hands to hold equipment, wrapping thumbs and index fingers around the grip.
• Operate weed eaters close to the ground.

Pesticide safety
• Review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and keep them readily available. Make sure all pesticides are labeled. Follow mixing
instructions and be aware of recommended medical assistance.
• Designate trained employees to handle pesticide applications.
• Do not smoke, drink, or eat while working with pesticides, and know the location of decontamination sites.
• Place pesticides in rear section of truck and make sure containers are secured and in good condition.
• Clean up spills immediately (control, contain, clean).
• Wash hands after working with pesticides, and wash soiled clothing separately from other clothing.

The insurance side of house flipping

It’s a classic TV reality show scenario: A young, ambitious couple purchases a foreclosed property and flips it for a huge profit. This quick cash flow seems too good to be true…and usually i

The thrill of flipping a home often overshadows the harsh reality that profitable house-flipping opportunities are few and far between. I can honestly speak from experience. My wife and I were one of these young, ambitious couples that decided to dabble in the exciting world of house flipping. Although the experience was rewarding and challenging at the same time, we learned some valuable lessons. Potential house flippers should consider some insurance coverage issues before making a commitment:
  • Contemplate the cost of insurance when purchasing a home. If the house does not sell within a few months, insurance is a continuing expense that needs to be included in your budget.
  • Make sure you do your research when selecting an insurance company and policy. Your local independent agent can help you. Some insurance policies provide additional coverages you may need. Consider choosing one that provides limited coverage for water damage and fungi, wet or dry rot or bacteria. These issues often go unnoticed until after a remodeling project begins.
  • Discuss with your agent insurance to value – the need to insure the home for its reconstruction cost. Just because you purchased a home for a certain price does not mean that the home can be replaced for that amount. There can be a huge discrepancy between market and replacement cost values. Your agent can also recommend builders’ risk coverage for the remodeling cost of the project.
  • Consider the cost of building materials going into the refurbished home. Your insurance agent can add an installation floater – coverage for movable property – to your policy to insure construction materials in transit and at the jobsite.
  • Allow plenty of time to purchase insurance rather than waiting until the last minute. Contact your agent and consider an insurance company that will provide coverage for a house undergoing renovation. Some companies may consider this a vacant home and deny or limit coverage for vandalism, theft or other perils.
  • Before you allow contractors to start work on your investment, first confirm that they are insured. The safest bet is to request a copy of each contractor’s general liability policy declarations page. Make sure that the policy has at least a $1 million per occurrence and general aggregate limit.
– Cincinnati Insurance Companies

Go out and play, but keep one eye toward home security

Good weather gives you opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors. It also gives some unscrupulous people the opportunity they are looking for to burglarize your home or car and take your valuable possessions. You cannot prevent 100 percent of the thefts, but there are steps you can take to minimize the potential problem.


According to the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.9 billion in lost property in 2011: overall, the average dollar loss per burglary offense was $2,185. Burglaries of residential properties accounted for 74.5 percent of all burglary offenses.

These statistics clearly show that we have to be very aware of the potential for theft and take necessary steps to minimize this crime.

The National Crime Prevention Council offers the following tips to help you protect your property:

  • Light the outside of your home to eliminate hiding places
  • Leave some lights on in your home to make it appear occupied (timers on lights are a good option in the event you will be gone)
  • Plan landscaping to provide maximum visibility to and from your home
  • Cut tree limbs back from your home to prevent access to windows
  • Use a strong exterior door — either solid wood or metal — and add lighting at every door
  • Install locks on all sliding glass doors and place metal or wooden bars in the tracks to prevent opening
  • Make sure your windows are secure and have a good locking mechanism
  • Use strong and reliable locks; this is one of the most cost effective ways to help secure your property
  • Always keep doors and windows locked, even if you are going to be gone only a few minutes

Some additional suggestions for keeping your property safe:

  • Purchase a home security alarm
  • Let a trusted neighbor, friend or relative know when you are going to be gone for more than one night
  • Don’t allow newspapers or mail to accumulate; have a friend pick them up
  • Let your local law enforcement know if you will be gone for an extended time

While you may not be able to prevent every break-in, making a few changes in home security can help minimize thefts.

Note: This blog was originally published on April 17, 2013. The crime statistics have been updated to reflect 2011 numbers, the most recent figures available.

Source: Cincinnati Insurance Companies

Building a better summer camp experience

Spring is a busy season for parents reserving spots for their children in summer camps and activities, and many health, tennis, racquet and athletic clubs are starting to ramp up for summer.


If you are a club owner, you are probably finalizing the types of camps you will offer. Once you decide among sports, arts and crafts, adventure or other activities and determine the age groups you will serve, you can move on to other details. Here are some areas of primary concern:


Putting the right person in position to lead your camp programs is vital. You may not be around every minute of every camp day, and you want someone in charge who shares your vision and understands the mission of your organization.

The right leader can:

  • manage staff expectations
  • keep everyone organized and on task
  • react to a quickly changing environment
  • keep safety a top priority
  • communicate well

Get your leadership team in place early, and then involve them in hiring and training your remaining staff.


Training for camp leaders and staff should cover:

  • emergency medical response – defibrillator (AED), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid
  • your established camp policies and protocols
  • swim safety, including lifeguard training
  • emergency weather training
  • discipline policies
  • abuse awareness and protocols
  • communication plans and other safety protocols for field trips and activities

Partnering with recognized community organizations – such as the Red Cross for lifeguard or CPR training, child advocacy groups, local hospitals or local police, fire and EMS services – can increase the credibility and effectiveness of your training. Make sure your staff members – especially younger members – gain some basic understanding of childhood development and behavior.


Pools – Define expectations and responsibilities for your camp staff and lifeguards to assure smooth swim times. Be clear if camp staff need to remain in the pool area to provide extra supervision while lifeguards are in charge.

Field Trips – A cornerstone of most summer camp programs, field trips also present some of the biggest safety challenges. Unfamiliar locations with unknown hazards – along with the added element of contact with the public – call for heightened awareness and protocols. Increase staffing or add volunteers to reduce the ratio of children to adults. Take frequent head counts and position staff members where they are most needed. Protocols should prevent a sole staff member or volunteer from being alone with children.

Transportation – Whether you use parent volunteer drivers, own or lease vans or buses or contract a third-party bus company, have measures in place to assure safety.. When using a bus company, your contract should hold the company liable for any injury that occurs while campers are on the bus. For in-house transportation, hire trained drivers and check their driving credentials.

Allergies – As you prepare for summer camp thoroughly review participant applications for allergies, medical conditions or personal issues. Involve staff in action planning and in sit-down meetings with parents and guardians to assure each child has a safe and fun summer.

Equipment – Inspect the play set and other equipment, picnic tables and anything that may have been in storage since last summer to make sure everything is in good working order.

Providing a wonderful camp experience for the children you serve can be a rewarding experience for you and your staff, create memories for the youth and help cement the families as dedicated, satisfied members of your club. Planning for the expected – and the unexpected – can help everyone involved confidently focus on the fun!

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

Protecting Your Craft Beverage Equipment

While means and methods will vary, one item that all craft beverage manufacturers share is dependence on their equipment. That’s why it’s important to make sure you include equipment breakdown coverage as part of your insurance portfolio if you’re a craft brewer, distiller or winery owner.


When most of us think about insurance protection, we think of insuring against fire, wind, theft or injury to other parties due to our negligence. But what about an electrical arc that interrupts the power supply, a sudden compressor failure on a glycol chiller or the sudden breakdown of your grape crusher/destemmer? These can be expensive items to repair or replace, and the downtime may prove more costly due to the lost revenue and time it may take to get replacement equipment.

Most traditional property insurance policies exclude the sudden and accidental breakdown of mechanical, processing and heating and cooling equipment. A separate equipment breakdown policy or endorsement (a policy addition) is often required to insure these items properly. Many machinery and equipment policies include coverage for ammonia contamination and product spoilage due to temperature or humidity changes when vital equipment is suddenly damaged.

Consider these scenarios:

  • Your heating boiler explodes, causing extensive damage to your brewhouse and building. Equipment breakdown coverage can cover the damage to your equipment and your building.
  • A gear in a bottling line suddenly breaks, shutting down production. Equipment breakdown coverage can pay for your cost to repair or replace the damaged gear, up to the limit of your policy, and could also cover your lost income or extra expense caused by the accident.

In addition to covering the specialized equipment used in your craft, consider routine breakdown of equipment common in many business categories: air conditioning equipment, air tanks, electric motors, electronic data processing equipment, fans and blowers, water heaters and more. All of these can be covered under an equipment breakdown policy or endorsement.

Consider this important coverage to round out your insurance protection. By insuring your equipment against failure or breakdown, you can greatly reduce the financial impact to your business when they occur. For more information or contact The Ayres Group.


DATE: March 2015

CONTACT: Sally Stuby, Campaign Chairperson

Ph. 269-435-7432 or


Centreville, Mich. – Supporters of St. Joseph County 4-H programs have an opportunity to double their personal support for 4-H by helping to “Make the Match for St. Joseph County 4-H.”

St. Joseph County 4-H has set a goal of raising $20,000 locally which, if successful, will result in the county 4-H program qualifying for a 1:1 match from the Michigan 4-H Foundation of every dollar raised to build an endowment for 4-H programs in St. Joseph County.

Two local insurance agencies have teamed up to start the campaign.  Ayres Insurance Agency and Chupp Insurance, both of Sturgis, are donating $250 each to the campaign.  In addition, Fremont Insurance Company through Chupp Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance Agency through Ayres Insurance, are each contributing an additional $250 to the fund.  Jeff Brazo, Vice President or Ayres Insurance and Rod Chupp, Co-Owner of Chupp Insurance, noted that they offer this total of $1,000 as a challenge to other insurance agencies and companies to step up and support the campaign.  Mr. Chupp noted, “Agriculture is the bedrock of our county and state economy.  As such, those individuals and businesses that are fortunate enough to enjoy an active role in our agricultural community should naturally desire to help sustain that heritage through programs and opportunities such as this 4-H Endowment.”

Sally Stuby, “Make the Match” campaign chairperson, said, “Research has shown that youth participating in 4-H have better social and leadership skills, are more likely to attend post-secondary education, and are better prepared for career and life challenges.  This endowment will provide some permanent, long-term support for 4-H youth in St. Joseph County.”

County 4-H programs in Michigan have historically been funded by a partnership between federal, state and county governments, Michigan State University and gifts from private supporters.  With increasing reductions in public support for 4-H, 4-H families, volunteers, clubs, alumni and other friends are coming together to build private support to sustain 4-H in local communities.

The St. Joseph County 4-H Endowment, when doubled by the match, will provide annual support for current  4-H program delivery, for future 4-H program enhancements and other areas of greatest need that would serve to advance delivery of 4-H in St. Joseph County.

Eva Beeker, St. Joseph County Program Coordinator said, “The Make the Match campaign will help to provide money to begin new programs within 4-H to better serve our youth in St. Joseph County. Programs like robotics, geocaching and other fun yet educational areas that are of interest to today’s youth will be explored and implemented with the money that will be made available.”

The “Make the Match for St. Joseph County” campaign is made possible by grants from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation and gifts made by individual leadership donors to the Michigan 4-H Foundation.  The goal is to raise $1 million in endowment for county 4-H programs in Michigan that will in turn be doubled by the match from these leadership contributors.

For information on how you can help “Make the Match for St. Joseph County
4-H”, visit the campaign web site at  or contact the St. Joseph County MSU Extension office at 269-467-5511.  Sally Stuby, campaign chairperson, may be contacted at 269-435-7432 or

St. Joseph County 4-H is a program of Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development Programs whose mission is to create non-formal, educational opportunities to help youth thrive in a complex and changing world.  The Michigan 4-H Foundation supports Michigan 4-H Youth Development programs to prepare youth for meaningful and productive lives.