July 15, 2013
The importance of safety
Education has improved safety habits for the landscape industry.
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO executive director

Tony DiGiovanniNo one goes to work thinking it will be his last day. Yet it happens.

I have vivid memories of tearful, scared members calling with news that their worst nightmare just came true. An employee was killed doing his job. In 22 years working at LO, I have received five of these calls. As you can imagine, the conversations were not pleasant. I have also received calls when employees and owners have been badly hurt on the job. The disruptions to their lives are almost unfathomable.   

Historically, there has not been a proper focus on safety. I remember the first Canada Blooms 17 years ago. There were 35 contractors working round-the-clock to build the wonderful gardens. Equipment was running dangerously in all directions. There were many near misses. I narrowly missed being run over by a skid steer.
Very few people were wearing personal protective equipment. We purchased boxes of safety goggles, gloves and ear protection and assigned staff member Tom Somerville to distribute the gear to all workers on the show floor. Many refused.   

At that time, WSIB rates had reached $9.11 per hundred dollars of payroll. This reflected the frequency and cost of the many claims in our sector. It was a wakeup call.  

Since then, Landscape Ontario has made safety a priority. Through the amazing awareness and education efforts of Terry Murphy CLP, Bob Allen and Peter Olsen, and through the proactive actions of our professional membership, we have been able to reduce the WSIB rate by more than half. This has saved the industry millions of dollars and more importantly, saved families a great deal of heartache.

Terry was LO’s manager of human resource development. Bob and Peter (both LO past presidents) represented our sector on the Farm Safety Association. Landscape Ontario has won awards for our safety work. Staff members Sally Harvey CLP, CLT and Kathy McLean continue the education effort, working closely with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services to keep the safety message in the forefront.    

A couple of months ago, we ran a Landscape Ontario magazine cover shot of Georgian Lakelands member Jeff Lee cutting stone at Canada Blooms.  We had asked Jeff to remove his goggles for the photograph. From a safety perspective, this was a big mistake.
peter olsen
Terry Murphy
Bob Allen
The landscape industry owes a great deal of thanks to Ontario safety activists Peter Olsen, Terry Murphy and Bob Allen, pictured from left. The efforts of countless other safety heroes, working tirelessly within their own companies, have also prevented needless heartache and expense.
Immediately after publication, we received complaints from a number of members who were upset because the cover of the magazine should reflect the highest standard of safety. The loudest protest came from Bob Allen, who has spent a lifetime preaching the safety message to the industry. Bob was right. Safety is a serious subject. The magazine needs to continue to reflect this important industry requirement.   

As a response to Bob’s passion for safety, we have created this special issue of Landscape Ontario magazine.  

We have hard evidence that a focus on safety brings huge results. You have shown that making safety a priority works. Let’s keep reminding ourselves.
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at tonydigiovanni@landscapeontario.com.