Manipulating the land for aesthetic beauty is not a new idea of the 21st century. All one has to do is consider the Hanging Gardens of Babylon from 629 BC to see it's pretty evident that humans have been interested in manipulating and beautifying the landscape around them for centuries. The Hanging Gardens are considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and featured an ascending network of trees, shrubs, and vines. The gardens required the work of landscapers to maintain the appearance.
A 3D Rendering of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The NAICS code for landscaping is 561730, representing all companies and individuals that provide landscape care and services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 500,000 people who find employment as landscaping and groundskeeping workers. Those who perform this type of work have experience with a large variety of projects and tasks, including planting trees and shrubs, building retaining walls, designing and installing walkways, building decks and patios, installing ponds and water features, and much more.
This article will dive into what landscaping is, what landscapers do, and what safety gear is needed to keep workers safe.
What is landscaping? The best landscaping definition describes it as a practice that involves making changes and improvements to increase the aesthetics of a specific area of land, often in spaces surrounding homes and buildings. As with our example of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, landscaping's primary aim is to improve the appearance of an outside area by modifying specific features.
Those who are interested in landscaping look for inspirational ideas from various cultures. Some of the most popular landscapes include Chinese, Egyptian, German, Japanese, and Italian. Other creative landscape ideas represent the earth's natural topography. Here are two of the most popular: country landscapes and mountain landscapes.
Three classifications encompass landscaping activities:
- Plants –adding or extracting flora like plants, flowers, grasses, shrubs, trees, and vines can dramatically change the landscape
- Terrain – manipulating the elevation of an area, including hills, mounds, and slopes, creates attractive landscaping; terrain elements can also include water features such as streams, ponds, rivers, or swamps
- Structures – building structures into the landscape in the form of brick courtyards, fire pits, pebbles, fountains, retaining walls, timber, fences, decks, waterfalls, and raised planters can add function and beauty to a landscaping project
A property's value will typically increase after landscaping activities are performed and the property is wonderfully groomed. Landscaping isn't limited to residential landscaping. Commercial landscapers are in high demand to plan and maintain cemeteries, cities, golf courses, industrial sites, parks, schools, and public neighborhoods.
Occupational Job Duties and Maintenance
What do landscapers do? A landscaper's job responsibilities cover a wide range of activities, and they work in countless environments. Their work can be very straightforward, like planting flowers in a flower bed, to incredibly complex, like planning and producing from scratch a landscape that incorporates several different types of areas and water needs. Landscapers perform many various tasks, depending on their role within the industry. According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, this list represents the diversity of jobs within the landscaping industry:
- Equipment operators
- Hardscape technicians
- Irrigation installation and service technicians
- Tree and plant care technicians
- Landscape maintenance technicians
- Lawn care technicians
As you can see, landscape professionals are responsible for many different tasks to keep properties looking their best. Unfortunately, some of these tasks create opportunities for injuries to occur.
Applications, Hazards, and Injuries
Landscapers wear many hats and perform many different types of work. Here are some of the most commonly performed landscape activities:
- Building forms
- Digging up ground
- Edging shrubs
- Grading areas for planting
- Installing decorative lighting
- Installing irrigation systems
- Installing mortarless concrete walls
- Installing rock gardens
- Laying sod
- Loading materials
- Moving dirt and mulch
- Mowing lawns
- Operating sod cutters
- Picking up branches
- Planting trees, plants, bushes, lawns, etc.
- Preparing soil for planting
- Raking leaves
- Shoveling snow
- Spraying fertilizers and insecticides
- Trimming trees
OSHA explains that some of the more hazardous tasks associated with landscaping include soil preparation and grading, irrigation, hardscape construction, planting trees and lawns, performing lawn and landscape maintenance tasks, and doing various tree care tasks.
Let's look at some common landscaping injuries and how to prevent them.
Landscapers use a variety of tools and equipment to maintain properties. Many of these tools can easily cut a worker due to their sharp cutting edges. Power tools like chainsaws, drills, and electric trimmers are obvious injury hazards, but even small, handheld tools can be a safety risk.
There are also times when workers must repair equipment or remove objects that get caught in a tool. Dexterity and sense of touch can be critical in addressing these repairs, but any time the hand is unprotected when fixing equipment, there is a chance for cut injury. And, don't forget about thorny plants, which can also lacerate one's hands and arms. Simply put, there are numerous landscaping scenarios where cut protection is crucial.
One of the best ways to prevent cut injuries related to landscaping work is to keep your equipment sharp and well-maintained. For on-the-job cut protection, we have a section below that highlights our cut-resistant gloves and sleeves.
Landscapers frequently work with hazardous chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, paint, and kerosene. Protecting oneself against these dangerous chemicals is imperative to avoid long-lasting injury or death.
Chemical injuries may include burns, eye irritation, and potential breath issues. Continual or repeated exposure to certain chemicals can also cause long-term illnesses.
To protect yourself from chemical injuries, follow these crucial steps:
- Have a chemical spill kit easily accessible
- Keep a jug of water and soap close by to help clean up after jobs
- Wear high-quality personal protective equipment designed for the application performed
- Read the MSDS of chemicals used before selecting the appropriate PPE
- Store chemicals properly
- Work in well-ventilated areas
Heat Stress and Overexertion
Heat is a severe threat to anyone who works outside, and that certainly includes landscapers who work outdoors in all weather conditions. In a recent survey of landscapers conducted by O*NET OnLine, 99% said that exposure to outdoor weather was a part of their everyday experience. Also, 75% mentioned that both cold and hot temperatures were hazards to consider.
Avoiding heat stress and overexertion is a significant health and safety concern for landscaping crews. As we highlight in our Heat Stress and PPE article, if you are responsible for a landscaping crew, you can help keep your team safe by ensuring that everyone has access to water and appropriate rest breaks. In extreme heat, it may be necessary to modify work schedules to avoid creating unsafe work conditions. For those DIY landscaping projects at home, be aware of any weather conditions that may affect your ability to perform the work safely.
We've only scratched the surface of all the hazards landscapers face. There are vibration hazards, dust hazards, hearing threats, insect concerns, and many more.
Here are some useful websites identifying potential landscaping hazards:
Landscaping personal protective equipment (PPE) plays an essential role in keeping you safe! Without it, workers will spend more time at the doctor's office than beautifying someone's front yard. Here is a look at the PPE MCR Safety offers landscapers.
Gloves need to be durable enough to stand up to the landscaping industry's hard work but comfortable and flexible enough to be worn consistently without causing discomfort. Gloves will protect your hands from various dangers, including whatever rocks, debris, chemicals, or hazards might be in the soil.
Depending on the day's work site and tasks, a landscaper may need leather, nylon coated, or disposable nitrile gloves. Here are some areas of our website that you might find helpful as you plan which glove is right for you:
- Disposable Gloves – Visit our disposable glove lineup here; we offer roughly 48 different styles from nitrile to latex to vinyl.
- Leather Work Gloves – These gloves are thick and durable, capable of holding up to abrasive materials, such as concrete blocks and bricks.
- Nitrile Coated Styles – Ideal for abrasive handling but more lightweight than leather gloves, these gloves are great for gripping objects, too. Our new Ninja® BNF Evolution work gloves offer 360° breathability, perfect for those working in hot environments.
- Mechanics Gloves– The most advanced gloves we have to offer, our mechanics gloves feature the latest innovations in hand protection.
Whenever someone is working with chemicals, breaking up the ground, and moving materials, there is a concern about dust and debris damaging the eyes. Safety glasses help keep a worker's eyes protected. You're going to need some shades to block out UV rays, too.
Here are some areas of our website that you may find helpful in your search for the perfect safety glasses:
- Polarized Safety Glasses – These are our best styles for environments with glare.
- OSHA-Approved –This article highlights all the hazards OSHA addresses and the regulations they've set concerning safety glasses.
- Safety Goggles – More protective than safety glasses, goggles can help keep chemicals and dust out of your eyes.
- Sealed Eyewear – This option is lined with material to help block debris and dust from entering your eyes.
- Safety Glasses – Our online catalog highlights all the styles we offer.
Hi-Vis Clothing and Rain Gear
Municipal or city landscapers often work around busy intersections, clearing debris and improving a street's appearance. Staying seen is extremely important whenever working around the road. Workers should be wearing contrasting hi-vis colors to keep them easily seen by drivers. Landscapers are also subject to the whims of Mother Nature, and when that rainstorm hits, they're going to need some rain gear. Finally, a long-sleeve shirt helps keep ticks and insects away from the skin. We make hi-vis versions!
Here are some areas of our website that you may find helpful when you're ready to look for clothing and accessories:
- Balaclavas – You'll need your face protected during the cold winter months.
- Hi-Vis Shirts – We break down all our hi-vis shirt options here. Our moisture-wicking shirts help keep workers cool and dry during the hot summer months.
- Garment Catalog – From suspenders to hi-vis rain gear, our online garment catalog shows our complete product offering.
How Much Does Landscaping Cost Per Square Foot?
- Landscaping projects can vary pretty significantly from case to case. Here is a handy estimating tool that can walk you through creating a reasonable cost projection for what you have in mind, whether you are doing the work yourself or planning to hire a contractor.
Where to Buy Landscaping Rocks?
- Landscaping rocks make a beautiful contribution to outdoor features such as patios, gardens, yards, and commercial buildings. You can purchase landscaping rocks from local vendors or some of the significant retail landscaping suppliers. Here are some places to buy landscaping rocks:
How Do You Landscape Around Trees?
- Mature and young trees need specialized attention when you are planning your landscaping project. Be sure to choose a landscaping strategy that protects the roots, ensures the tree receives enough water and avoids suffocating the tree.
How Do You Cut Landscape Blocks?
- Cutting your pavers can be a challenging but rewarding DIY project, as you end up with a wholly customized landscape at your home or business. Options for cutting include using a hammer and chisel or a power saw. Regardless of which strategy you use, be sure to use good protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection, to avoid injury.
MCR Safety understands the importance of keeping landscapers safe. We provide PPE to keep people safe while they do yard work and landscaping jobs of all kinds! Whether you are a gardener, professional landscaper, or a homeowner working on a weekend DIY project, it is vital to protect yourself from yard work and landscaping-related injuries.
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We welcome any comments, feedback, or suggestions for how we can best protect people at work.
For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's in a landscaped yard, on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.