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Grounds and Gardens

Safety In the Grounds and Gardens Section

The pages on Machinery and Work Equipment must be read in conjunction with this page.


  1. Accidents and First Aid
  2. Tetanus
  3. Duty to Members of the Public
  4. Hazardous Substances
  5. Flammable Substances
  6. Noise and Vibration
  7. Manual Handling
  8. Electrical Safety
  9. PPE


All accidents, incidents/near misses must be reported to the Health and Safety Department.
At least one certificated first-aider should be available. however, because of the scattered nature of the workforce there is a probability that a trained first-aider will not be immediately available after an accident. It would be useful if those who work in scattered workplaces had a knowledge of basic emergency first aid procedures. These are covered in half-day courses arranged by the University.

Tetanus is a very serious infection caused by an organism entering a wound at the time of injury. Wounds which occur when working with soil are among those where tetanus infection is likely.
Immunization against tetanus is simple with a course of three injections. A booster dose is required every ten years. It is recommended that you keep up to date with these booster doses. Contact your GP for further advice.
Weils Disease 

Report or deal with anything that may be a source of danger to those who visit or use the grounds you look after, for example broken seats, paths, steps etc, dangerous branches, broken glass. In consideration for the disabled, it is important to remove obstacles from paths.
Take particular care if children are around when you are using machinery or chemicals. When spraying pesticides, a suitable zone should be implemented to avoid anyone being endangered by pesticide drift.
Never let children or unauthorised persons ride on tractors or other machinery.

A number of substances used in horticulture and related activities can present health hazards. The use of these types of materials and preparations must be covered by a suitable risk assessment for the activity and the safety data sheet must be used in this process. Emergency Procedures should be prepared in advance and relevant people must be trained as appropriate.

All materials must be stored in their original packaging with safety information clearly visible. However, not all hazardous substances come in labelled packages. Some, such as wood dust (which can cause nasal cancer and respiratory disease) may be created by a process being carried out. Others may be present in a particular environment; for example the soil (tetanus) the atmosphere (airborne moulds from decaying vegetable matter can cause respiratory problems), and open water courses (which can be contaminated with infected rat urine which can transmit/leptospirosis). Exposure to hazardous substances must be prevented, or where this is not possible, the exposure must be adequately controlled by engineering or administrative procedures. Health surveillance may be required for some substances. The Health and Safety Department has information on hazardous materials. In some cases where health hazards are not great, following Good Hygiene Practice will effectively act as risk control. However, when dealing with more hazardous substances, particularly for the first time, a written assessment should be carried out, the amount of detail being in proportion to the nature and degree of risk arising from the proposed work. Contact your Manager / Supervisor before commencing this type of work where assessment and procedures are required.

  • PESTICIDES AND OTHER HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS Pesticides include fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, public hygiene pest control products, rodenticides and wood preservatives. Some of these substances in their undiluted form are extremely toxic. For example, some insecticides are similar to agents used in chemical warfare.
  • STORAGE AND LABELLING Ensure the label is legible and relevant to the contents of the container. A safety symbol will be displayed on the packaging where the material poses a hazard for the user. The meaning of these symbols can be found on the H&S website. All chemicals including herbicides and pesticides must be stored in a secure storage area which is which is dry, not subject to extremes of temperature, capable of resisting fire for at least thirty minutes, and robust enough to withstand reasonable accidental impact. The store needs to be capable of retaining spillage of the largest vessel stored +10%, and smoking must be prohibited in the vicinity of the store.Chemicals that are out of date, or the packaging is unclear as to the contents, they must not be used: they must be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of safely by an approved route. (see Health and Safety website for guidance)
  • RECORDS Records of training must be kept for all authorised users of herbicides and pesticides. Records of application shoud be kept which indicate the user, place of use, amount used, weather conditions etc. See also the Approved Code of Practice using Plant Protection Products

• Follow manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and mixing exactly;
• Wear appropriate protective clothing;
• do not prepare any more of the chemical than you can use;
• carry out all mixing operations out of doors;
• always add chemicals to water, never water to chemicals;
• take particular care when handling dusty chemicals to reduce the risk of inhaling poisonous
• where necessary wear a face mask; and
• do not smoke, drink or eat while preparing or mixing chemicals.

  • USE

• Pesticides can only be applied by trained and competent people;
• Follow instructions;
• Wear appropriate protective clothing as informed by the risk assessment;
• keep gloves and boots clean;
• Wash overalls frequently;
• Do not wear contaminated clothing longer than necessary;
• Wash down gloves and rubber boots after use;
• Never smoke, drink or eat when using chemicals;
• Never suck or blow through blocked nozzles;
• avoid drift of sprayed chemicals; consider weather conditions’ and do not use a spray in high winds;
• never leave chemicals unattended in containers or equipment;
• avoid contaminating a water supply;
• do not leave unused chemicals in equipment;
• thoroughly wash all equipment after use; and
• wash hands after removal of protective clothing.

All flammable liquids must be stored in appropriate containers and locked away in flammable storage cabinets when not actually being used. The container must be marked for the flammability of the contents.
Never smoke when handling flammable materials.
All filling operations with flammable liquids must be performed out of doors in a safe place free of ignition sources.
Emergency Procedures for dealing with spillages should be prepared in advance and all those who may need to use any spill kits / emergency procures must be trained in their correct use.

Exposure to excessive noise levels can result in hearing loss and exposure to vibration can lead to circulatory probems. Please refer to the Noise and the Vibration pages on this site.

• Never approach someone from behind if they are operating machinery or using ear protection.
• Vibration transmitted directly to the hands can cause ‘vibration white finger’ in which blood supply to the hands and fingers is impeded, especially in cold conditions. Whole body vibration (e.g. received sitting on a machine) can cause back problems.
• Noise and vibration can be controlled by having suitably designed and well maintained machines.
• Noise exposure to individuals can be reduced by suitable work planning (e.g. job rotation, limiting the period of use of noisy machinery).
• When noise exposure exceeds the First Action Level of 80 dB(A) averaged during the working day, you should wear ear protection if noise levels cannot be reduced by other means


If a load is too heavy, or if it is an awkward size of shape, do not lift it yourself. Ask somebody else to help you.
Before lifting a load, test it for weight by lifting one corner. If it moves easily it is probably light enough to be carried by one person. In some cases mechanical lifting aids may be essential.
Because of the possibility of injury, particularly to the back, it is important to know how to lift heavy objects and how to assess and reduce the risk involved.

Think things through before you start

• Examine the object for SIZE, SHAPE and WEIGHT.
• Check your ROUTE is clear.
• Know where and how you will put the object DOWN.
• Position FEET properly – standing close to the load.
• Bend your KNEES but avoid overflexing them i.e. do not bend your knees past 90 degrees.
• Keep your BACK straight.
• Grasp the load FIRMLY.
• Lift with your legs – SLOWLY STRAIGHTEN them bringing your back into the vertical position.
• Hold load CLOSE to your body.
• Avoid TWISTING – move your feet if you must change direction.

If load is too heavy, large or too difficult to handle

• Use mechanical aids such as SACK BARROWS or TROLLEYS...
• Where possible break the load down into smaller MANAGEABLE PARTS.
• If not practicable, GET HELP;

Team Lifts

  • one person should be in control and give clear instructions
  • work as a team.

TASK – the lifting/carrying you are about to do.
INDIVIDUAL – know your lifting capabilities.
LOAD – weight of the object, shape, hand holds, stability, etc.
ENVIRONMENT – consider stairs, wet floors, poor lighting, restricted head room, etc.

ELECTRICAL SAFETY please also refer to the main page on Electrical Safety
Horticultural equipment is often subject to strenuous use and used under hazardous conditions (eg wet, greasy). Always ensure equipment is checked before use and taken out of service if not satisfactory.
Hand-held electrical equipment used outdoors, or where there is a lot of earthed metal work, should, where possible, be supplied at reduced voltage, ie 110 volts centre-tapped earth system from a safety isolating transformer. If this is not possible, the equipment should be connected
through a residual current device (RCD) which will cut off the power quickly if there is an earth fault. The RCD should be checked by pressing the test button.
Battery charging should be carried out in a well-ventilated area away from sparks and other sources of ignition.
Electricity can flash over from overhead power lines to nearby objects, and the results can be lethal. There is particular danger to anyone working with a ladder, pole-pruner or irrigation pipe close to an overhead line or on a tractor with loading bucket or any other equipment near the line. If
earth, turf or other material is delivered it is essential that any load is tipped at least ten metres from any line to avoid the risk of possible contact. Care is needed if digging holes in case of buried live cables. Excavations must be cautious even when no services are expected, areas where services are anticipated should be hand dug. Estates must always be contacted before starting any work close to overhead lines or buried cables.

This has to be supplied if health risks cannot be adequately reduced by any other means.
Examples of equipment which may be required are as follows:

  • eye protection to guard against the hazardous splashes from pesticides, sprays and dust;
  • ear protection to guard against excessive noise levels when using certain types of machinery, e.g. rotary mowers and chain saws;
  • safety footwear to guard against the hazards of objects falling or crushing the foot and to protect against adverse weather, and machinery such as trimmers and hover mowers;
  • gloves and, where necessary, arm protection to guard against cuts and abrasions, extremes of temperature, skin irritation and dermatitis, and contact with pesticides and hazardous liquids;
  • protective clothing for the body to guard against contact pesticides and other hazardous substances, cold, heat and bad weather; and
  • protective clothing and equipment must be worn when using machinery such as chainsaws.

Damage to/defects in protective equipment must be reported and not worn. Task can continue when a suitable replacement is provided.