When summer heat sets in, many landscape companies fall back on one tried-and-true strategy: getting an early start.
For JubileeScape, a commercial and residential landscape management company in Mobile, Ala., that means getting to the first job of the day as soon as there is enough light to see by – although employees don't start on residential projects before 6 a.m., according to president and owner Robin Luce.
Dixie Landscape, a landscape maintenance company that serves homeowners associations and commercial properties in the area surrounding Dade, Fla., also schedules early start times so crews can wrap up the workday sooner on days with particularly high temperatures. And in Troy, Ohio, where Ever-Green Turf and Landscape is located, work starts an hour to an hour and a half earlier when temperatures are forecasted to reach 90 to 95 degrees, says General Manager Kirk Persinger.
But starting the workday early is only one strategy landscape businesses use when the mercury rises. Here are some other key considerations that come into play when the heat settles in for the summer.
Train crews to stay safe. During yearly training, employees of Ever-Green Turf and Landscape learn about the signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration so they know what to look for once summer temperatures arrive. Crew chiefs in particular are on alert for signs of trouble.
“When it's warm out, I'm in constant contact with my guys,” Persinger says. “Crew chiefs may get tired of hearing from me, but I check in every couple of hours to make sure everything is OK.”
At JubileeScape, supervisors and foremen keep an eye out for employees who look overheated or disoriented. “When we have heat waves, we'll talk about how we can take care of the guys. It's about communication,” Luce says. He adds that JubileeScape employees have never dealt with a heat stroke or other serious health problems resulting from heat exposure.
“We have had people get overheated, though,” Luce says. “We'll send them to the doctor in a moment if they need it. Otherwise, we encourage them to drink plenty of fluids and rest.”
Know when to take breaks. Encouraging rest and fluids are common strategies for helping landscaping crews deal with the heat, but most companies expect employees to take charge of their own safety. “We let the guys and girls manage their bodies themselves. They know their bodies more than we do. If they need two or three breaks before lunch, that's what they do. I don't set any schedules,” Persinger says. “When the heat gets like this out there, whenever you need a break or need water, you do what you need to do.”