WorkSafe WA has launched a campaign to improve health and safety in garden centres and nurseries.
WorkSafe inspectors have started visiting gardening outlets in metropolitan and regional areas to ensure health and safety laws are being complied.
According to WorkSafe Director Manufacturing, Transport and Service Industries Joe Attard, it is important for gardening retailers to have good safework systems in place for managing risks especially in the spring – a traditionally busy period for gardening outlets.
“Nurseries are likely to take on additional staff at this time of the year and many of these new workers will be students or young people entering the workforce. It is especially important they are given a thorough safety induction,” he said.
“Despite being perceived as harmless work environments, nurseries deal with a range of occupational safety and health issues including manual tasks, heat stress, Legionnaires’ disease and hazardous substances.”
According to Mr Attard, their previous inspections showed operators lacked understanding of common hazards.
“Some were content with practices that failed even to identify risks,” he said.
“Due to the physical demands of nursery work, employers should identify all the hazards that arise from manual tasks and assess the risk of injury or harm from each.
“Even simple everyday tasks, such as moving plants and other stock between varying working-level heights, can put workers at risk of serious back and other musculoskeletal injuries.
“Other causes of injury, common in the nursery industry, include lifting, slips, trips, falls and vehicle accidents.”
He said many nurseries stored hazardous substances such as pesticides and herbicides, so it was importance that they are aware of the requirements for the safe storage and handling of these materials.
Legionnaires’ disease – a virulent and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia – can be contracted if soils are improperly handled, and is another issue for nursery employees.
Mr Attard said staff must not be complacent just because they are wearing personal protective equipment. Proper hygiene practices must also be in place for the workers to avoid contracting the disease.
“Staff should also be alert to the flu-like symptoms of Legionnaires’ and we are advising all nursery workers to inform their doctors of the type of work they do,” he said.
Mr Attard said the safety campaign’s main aim is to raise awareness, but inspectors would require improvements to be made if the situation calls for it.