Safety in Synthetic Turf

Synthetic turf is a multi-billion dollar industry and one of the largest growing Industries today. All types of contractors are jumping into the “turf biz” eager to install millions to make millions. Don’t let the soft green fibers and easy installation fool you, just like every trade, there must be an understanding for its safety. Safety for our employees, safety for our customers, and safety for our environment.

This month Ask JW will guide you through some of his safety tips that will assist you in creating job safety.

“There is no substitute for experience”……. Ask JW

Synthetic turf may look like an easy profession but it has its share of mishaps. You would be amazed by the Injuries and accidents I have witnessed over the years due to the lack of understanding of safety in this profession. Creating and maintaining safety meetings are not only crucial to the company but in many states required by O.S.H.A. Safety meetings are an opportunity for management to communicate to employees how they can do their jobs safer and better.

Safety meetings allows employees an opportunity to speak about safety and health concerns or workplace improvement ideas to their co-workers, supervisors and upper management. Unsafe acts account for 90 percent of all accidents. Safety meetings teach preventative measures against unsafe acts by educating employees on how they can do their job safely. I recommend creating a safety manual that will discuss safety concerns for each component that goes into your installations. This will allow employees to have a better understanding of safety prior to starting the project. Safety meeting can happen during the project as well. When a supervisor witnesses a violation of safety, it is advantageous to have a safety meeting to address immediately.

Having a first aid kit on the jobsite is a must. When installing synthetic turf there are many injuries that may occur and being cut by sharp blades is one of them. Make sure you have the proper medical supplies in each kit to render aid to anyone in need. If the injury is too bad for a simple first aid kit, call 911 or visit the nearest hospital.

Natural grass blades are cooler than synthetic turf blades. Natural grass blades release moisture/vapor which allows the blade to be much cooler than synthetic turf blades. Natural grass does not absorbs and traps the heat of the suns UV rays like synthetic turf. Installing synthetic turf in 115 degree weather can be deadly. The harm excessive heat can do on the mind and the body can either be minutes between life and death.

Below is a checklist that I have recommend to other contractors for their team to stay healthy and cool while installing synthetic turf in the heat of the day.

  • Well balanced diet; A well balanced diet provides electrolytes
  • Electrolytes; electrolytes help keep water in the bloodstream for a longer period of time and prevent dehydration. I recommend adding to your water jug.
  • Plenty of rest the night before; When a body is rested it always works better
  • Plenty of water onsite; Depending on how many workers-having enough water for the entire day is a must.
  • Water Breaks; Many water breaks throughout the day is needed in hot climates. Staying hydrated will allow for healthy minds and more efficiency.
  • UV clothing; I recommend wearing UV clothing that blocks the sun’s harmful rays. Wearing long sleeves instead of short sleeves prevents the sting of the suns UV rays. The heat is enough to be hot over, why allow the sun to get to your skin?
  • UV Blocking accessories; hard hats now have brim covers that block out the sun’s rays. Face and neck covers are great for keeping out harmful rays.
  • Sunscreen; I recommend using zinc for serious sun blocking. It is like a paste, it stays on most of the day and doesn’t burn your eyes if you happen to get some in them.
  • In the extreme unbearable climates, I recommend carrying an ice bag to keep the neck cool. This will lower your body temperature and allow you to have a clear mind.
  • Excessive work hours can cause fatigue and dehydration; make sure you don’t overwork yourself in the heat, it’s not worth your health.

Synthetic turf cools off within seconds when shaded

Working in the hot sun is no fun unless you’re a lifeguard. I recommend purchasing a few pop-up shade covers for your crew. This is an inexpensive way to have immediate shade and it cools the surface temperature fast and assists in installation quality.

Hand Protection

Synthetic turf can be brutal on the hands, especially in the heat. I recommend using a good pair of gloves that will protect your hands and fingers from the elements. Turf blades are surgical sharp and can slice the skin very fast. Using gloves actually gives the installer more confidence in cutting. Using gloves when applying adhesives will protect your skin and allow a quality application.

Knee Pads

If you’re going to be in the synthetic turf Industry I recommend choosing a great pair of knee pads. Choosing knee pads are just as important as choosing a great pair of work boots. Knee pads prevents injuries and protects our skin from heat transfer from the turfs surface. I recommend this brand and type of knee pad for the serious turf installer.

“If you don’t protect your knees today… they will fail you when you get older… JW

Hot Nails?

I was born and raised in Las Vegas and you can say I have seen my share of hot summer days. After installing millions of square feet in the hot, scorching desert sun I have become acclimated. There is one thing I have never understood from synthetic turf installers… “WHY DO YOU LEAVE THE NAILS & STAPLES ON THE HOT TURF’?!!!!???

Throughout my travels and trainings, the first thing I witness is installers leaving the nails on the turf and then never using them because they are too hot to grab. Then at the end of the day, everyone is picking up the hot nails that were too hot to use.

Do yourself and your team a favor and go spend the $1.99 for a painters bucket at Home Depot to keep your nails cooler, organized and prevent nails being lost in the turf which may cause injury. You may also place a cover over them to keep them out of the sun’s rays.

Bad Back?

If you want to prevent back injuries, and be a more productive installer then I would suggest purchasing a Turf Dolly. This Turf Dolly makes transporting your heavy rolls with ease. It takes the place of several men depending on how big and heavy the rolls are. Transporting an entire roll to a backyard is easy. You may purchase a Dolly/Transport form any carpet wholesale supply company.

Eye Wear

Do not take the chance of losing an eye or two. When working with synthetic turf infill you must wear safety eye wear to prevent Infill granules getting into your eyes. Once the granules gets into the eye lid, it could scratch the cornea and cause lasting injury to your vision. Please wear the proper eye wear when powerbooming or brushing in the Infill. Make sure you have an eye wash/flush in your first aid kit.

Breathing Infill Particles

Beware of synthetic turf Infill that is full if particles and dust. The photo above shows the dusty powdery smoke of dirty Infill. This is unhealthy for our environment, personal health and safety. Breathing dust particles is not good for the lungs. SGW takes pride in providing clean synthetic turf Infill.

I recommend using SGW premium infill & SGW Envirofill

SGW round premium Infill is produced in its natural round state. It is double washed, kiln dried and the cleanest natural Infill on the market. As you can see by the photo to the left, there is minimal to no dust.

SGW Envirofill is the latest in infill product technology – a non-toxic, non-absorbent “synthetic soil” that’s pet- and environment friendly, preventing bacteria growth. Envirofill’s trademark green silicone dioxide granules are cooler under sun than black crumb rubber and more sanitary than silica. Envirofill is a one-time application.

Hidden Embeds

Every turf installer should own a magnetic sweeper. This will pick up any blades, nails and staples that cannot be seen by the naked eye.  Leaving embeds in, on or around the turf project will cause a safety concern and may cause injury.

Fuel

A majority of power broom machines operate on 2 cycle engines. Fuel for 2 cycle engines has to either be mixed with fuel & oil or you may purchase pre-mix fuel that is ready to use. I recommend using “ready to use” mixed fuel to prevent spills and always having the correct mixture. Having the incorrect mixture will either burn up your machine or fowl the spark plug and will run poorly. Having to carry multiple gas cans on the project can be a safety concern. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand.

Blade Container

It is very important for each installation crew to have a “Blade Container” to store all of the used blades prior to discarding them into the trash. I have witnesses installers placing used blades on chairs, tables, block walls, planter beds and even laid on the ground. They always say that they will pick them up at the end of the job but, there is always that one or two blades that get left behind. Sharp blades cause injury. They can also cause injury to the client after you have left the job. I recommend using a “Blade Container” to store all used blades while in the installation process so you don’t chance leaving any behind.

If you do not have a “Blade Container” then I suggest using an empty plastic Gatorade bottle. Its works great for used blades and you can throw it away with every install.

Rooftop Safety

DO NOT JEPORDIZE YOUR LIFE WHEN INSTALLING TURF ON ROOFTOPS OR BALCONIES !!!

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, HAVE THE PROPER BODY HARNESS AND AREAS FOR STABLE TIE OFF

JW

Mobile Device safety

Cell phone use in the workplace is a growing safety concern. Mobile device accidents are on the rise in construction and causing accidents at an alarming rate.

Most businesses today operate and communicate through cell phones/digital information. The inappropriate use of cell phones in the workplace has become a big challenge for the construction industry. Being aware of your surroundings is your responsibility.

OSHA has started to place civil and criminal liability on employees that have been on their mobile devices while causing an accident.

OSHA regulations squarely forbid the use of cell phones in construction regulations pertaining to cranes and derricks (29 C.F.R. § 1926.1417(d)), but the hazard exists across any dangerous equipment.  Accordingly, active operation during the use of industrial equipment should be strictly prohibited.

I personally took this photo to the upper left. This young man was leaving the jobsite with his face buried into his cell phone and walked right into the path of a loader. He kept walking with his face down disregarding his and others safety around him.

Thank you everyone for understanding how important safety is in the synthetic turf Industry. Be safe out there and remember to use that sunscreen!

“JW”