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Safety program planning basics

While writing a safety plan can easily be pushed to the bottom of a golf course superintendent’s long to-do list, it’s arguably the most critical item on that list. A safety plan goes beyond protecting your employees; it protects the superintendent and the club itself from liability, negative publicity and fines. No matter how experienced, confident and knowledgeable your crew may be, they need to follow a defined and comprehensive safety plan.

Written policy

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) loves to call this an “injury and illness prevention program, but most normal people call it a “safety plan.” Your facility’s safety plan is required to have a written safety policy on anything that you reasonably feel could injure an employee or cause illness. 

This is a very long list and should include safety policies on turf equipment, tractors, mowers, chainsaws, smoking rules and regulations, first aid, respirator use, bloodborne pathogens, chemical hazard communication, the globally harmonized system, contingency planning (emergency coordinators, contacts, spill control and reporting requirements), safety rules for vehicles/carts, fire safety, lightning safety, trenching and shoring, heat stress, cold stress, personal protective equipment (with individual sections for each type of PPE), electrical lock out tag out (including qualified personnel and procedures), and much more. As we said, it’s a very long list.

OSHA requires that you communicate all of these polices to your employees. You should consider collecting these policies into a handbook, distributing them to each staff member and then holding a meeting with them to cover and discuss all of the policies.

The final step is to have the staff sign off on them. If you have Spanish-speaking employees, we recommend you provide them with one written in Spanish. Again, OSHA only requires you to communicate this information to the staff but there’s no better documentation than giving them a copy and having them sign off on it.

Part of your written safety program should be chemical Safety Data Sheets, or SDSs, for all hazardous materials on site. While there are online and other electronic solutions for SDSs, you can’t beat an old-fashioned SDS notebook placed in the shop or the lunchroom. Regulations require that there are no “barriers to access” for SDSs. Many electronic SDS solutions would require that every crew member have unfettered access to your office computers throughout the day. That’s not too likely at most facilities.

Safety training

For every topic discussed with written safety policies, you are required to conduct safety training on the same subjects. How many topics? If you search the OSHA website for the term “safety training,” you get over 20,000 search results. If you’re not at least having monthly safety training sessions, you should be rethinking your program.

There are safety training video services available online that can make easy and short work of this responsibility.

If you want to develop a safety training program in house, you should consider selected one topic per month, then writing an outline, creating a quiz based on your outline, covering the material with and then quizzing each employee, then reviewing the answers until each employee understands the answers and receives a perfect score. 


If you were wondering why you needed to print quizzes, this is why: OSHA has a three-pronged requirement for safety training and safety plans. You need to prove:

  • Who was there (evidenced by sign-in sheets)
  • What subjects were covered (mowers, tractors, hazard communication, etc.)
  • That the participants understood what was covered (the quiz)

Because “if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen.”

Todd Miller is a turf geek who never stops talking about safety and the president of Golf Safety. Before establishing Golf Safety and developing safety plans and training programs for golf facilities and country clubs across the country, he was a 15-year golf course superintendent.

Golf Course Industry

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