Working in the fresh air is the dream for many. An active job like landscape maintenance gives you the chance to spend more time outdoors and, in general, is good for your health. But it's important to acknowledge the hazards that are present when working as a landscaper, too.

Research suggests that landscapers and gardeners have a relatively high rate of injury compared to other industries. Though there is minimal research into the subject in Europe, it’s been explored across the Atlantic: in the landscaping and horticultural industry in the US, around 13,000 people a year suffer injuries at work.

At Kawasaki Engines, we’re committed to placing landscapers' wellbeing and safety front and centre. We want to help professionals stay safe and healthy while hard at work – addressing hazards before they develop is key to preventing accidents and injuries. Here's our advice on how to take practical steps to look after your health when you are at work.

Landscaping health and safety considerations

Every job comes with some level of health risk. Even in an office, people can develop issues from spending so much time sitting down – it’s about taking steps to mitigate that risk.

Working in landscape maintenance, as mentioned, has positive impacts on your health as well. It’s linked to reduced levels of stress, depression and anxiety, as well as lowering your risk of heart disease. An active job like landscaping helps you avoid the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle, but it can negatively impact your health if you don’t take steps to prevent it.

Here are a few injuries that could result from landscaping work:

  • Cuts and hand injuries – everyday use of tools and a momentary lapse of concentration can result in injury.
  • Back injuries – often from poor posture and heavy lifting without using the correct technique.
  • Heat stress – not taking steps to protect yourself from weather conditions or adjusting your working habits during periods of extreme heat.
  • Hearing loss – working with loud machinery without protection can affect your hearing long-term.

Eight simple steps you can take to protect your health working in landscaping

We want to make sure you’re looking after your health at work. Here are some key tips and advice that can help you protect your business’ most important asset – yourself.

Some may seem obvious, but even the most experienced landscaper can be guilty of skipping them!

1. Write a safety checklist

Before you get into the habit of doing these things automatically, you may find it useful to incorporate writing a checklist into your daily routine that helps you to catch hazards before they happen and ensure you have the correct equipment for your working day. A typical safety checklist might look like this:

  • A list of jobs to be carried out that day.
  • Any protective equipment needed to carry out certain tasks (including safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves and so on).
  • Any vehicle or machine safety checks that are required for safe use of larger equipment.
  • A check for weather-appropriate clothing and protection – looking at the forecast on a daily or weekly basis.

2. Wear ear protection

Paul mowing the lawn using Kawasaki machine

If you're going to be using loud machinery (which includes the majority of landscaping equipment), make sure that you have ear plugs or ear defenders and that you wear them whenever the source of the noise is switched on.

Remember that wearing ear protection can affect your awareness of other potential hazards in your environment, so stay in the present moment and look around frequently to ensure you're safe to continue working.

3. Wear eye protection

All kinds of tasks that come into play in the everyday life of a landscaper can pose a potential danger to your eyesight. Small stones, twigs or even blades of grass can cause injury to your eyes, and working in outdoor spaces can also leave you vulnerable to UV damage.

Wearing safety glasses, in particular a tinted kind, offers you protection from both foreign objects and the sun.

4. Choose the right clothing

Though it may be tempting to wear summer clothes in warm weather, long sleeves and trousers will help to protect your skin from sunburn, insect bites and irritation caused by prolonged contact with plant matter. Choosing light, breathable material that covers your arms and legs for warm weather will minimise these issues.

In colder weather, it’s important to wear enough warm clothes to maintain a steady core temperature, and to avoid creating discomfort by trapping cooling sweat inside your layers. Regulating your body temperature when you are physically active in cold weather is essential, and you can do this by wearing layers that you can add or remove easily as needed; for example, hats, gloves, body warmers and zip-up jackets.

5. Bear posture in mind

Professional landscapers are required to carry out many repetitive tasks, which can take a toll on your physical health.

Heavy lifting, crouching, twisting and maintaining awkward postures for periods of time are all elements of the job that can cause musculoskeletal problems. By lifting with your legs instead of your back, stretching regularly and taking frequent breaks, you can reduce the chances of suffering aches, pains and strains, and lower the impact of these tasks on your physical health.

6. Be careful to avoid heat and cold stress


These practices work best if you can follow them every day. Even in mild weather, long hours working in sunlight can cause skin damage which can build up over time and put you at risk of skin cancer. Using a high SPF sun cream throughout the day, wearing a hat and choosing clothing that covers your arms and legs are all simple, effective ways to avoid sunburn.

In hot weather, staying hydrated is key to avoiding discomfort and the more serious effects of heatstroke.

Whether working in soaring temperatures or the chilly winter months, pace yourself; take breaks and ensure you are drinking enough fluids and consuming enough calories to maintain your energy levels. If you can adjust your schedule to avoid working during the hottest times of the day, do so.

7. Safe handling of chemicals

Chemicals are becoming less of a fixture for landscapers, but there may be occasions where you need to use them.

It can seem an unnecessary use of precious time, but when using garden chemicals it's a good idea to always read the label before you begin. Even if you'll only be using a product briefly, make sure that your nose and mouth are covered, and wear gloves and safety glasses to protect your skin and eyes from accidental splashes.

8. Acknowledge tiredness to prevent mistakes

Working in the landscaping sector is a physically demanding job that often involves long hours, particularly during the summer months. Operating any kind of machinery when tired is more likely to lead to injury, as we are all prone to making mistakes when we are in need of a break.

Taking regular rest breaks, staying hydrated and ensuring you have enough to eat can alleviate tiredness. If you find that you have tried these tactics and you're still feeling worn out, perhaps switch the task requiring machinery for another manual task, and return to it later when you are feeling more alert.

Operating machinery: the key safety considerations

We’ve covered general safety tips – now it’s time to look more specifically at operating machinery with your wellbeing in mind. Again, these are unlikely to be new to you, but complacency can filter in with experience; refreshing your knowledge of the basics could make all the difference to your health.

Keep user manuals handy

Even if you have had a particular machine or vehicle for years, keep its manual in a place where you can access it easily if something comes up that you need to check. Consulting the manual is always going to be more effective than guessing if you are unsure.

Blades are safer when sharpened

Keeping the blades of your landscaping tools and machinery clean and sharp will help you avoid having to apply excessive force during use, which can lead to slips and cuts. Sharper blades also provide a better quality cut, improving the finish of your work.

Turning machinery on and off safely

Before turning on a machine, spend time giving it a look over to check for any obvious damage or deterioration, particularly if you haven't used it for some time.

If you need protective equipment to operate it safely, ensure you have that with you before turning on the machine. When you have finished the task, make sure that you disengage blades if possible, and always power all the way down before dismounting from the vehicle or putting down the machine. Store machines safely, away from damp and exposed spaces.

Mowing safely with a ride-on

Ride-on mowers are integral to many landscaping businesses. But they are a large piece of machinery with the potential to cause accidents, so care should be taken when operating one. Most accidents can easily be avoided by maintaining a steady pace, not underestimating an incline and referring to the user manual to ensure you’re working within operating guidelines.

Many ride-on mowers now incorporate ergonomic design: if you’re interested in purchasing a new mower, check for an ergonomic seat and controls – your back will thank you later!

Our OEMs ride-on mowers are typically designed with noise reduction in mind, as are our 4-stroke engines, though you should wear ear defenders when using a mower as an extra layer of protection. Protecting your eyes from flying debris such as small stones or blades of grass while cutting is also good practice.

A simple, but important tip: always apply the parking brake to the ride-on when stationary, even when the engine is off.

Safe working with brushcutters

man using Kawasaki brushcutters wearing safety gear

Brushcutters are another integral tool for most landscapers, and most modern models have low tone mufflers for noise reduction and a lightweight design for comfortable use. Though our 2-stroke engines are made to minimise vibrations, these cannot be ruled out entirely. Be aware of the physical impact of vibrations; taking regular breaks when using power tools will help to reduce stress on your body, and you should consider wearing vibration absorbing gloves.

Other protective gear we recommend while using brushcutters includes wearing safety glasses, face protection and sturdy boots.

It's particularly important when working with a brushcutter to clear away any trip hazards, where possible, before starting work, such as roots, tree stumps or rocks. Cleaning and maintaining your brushcutter appropriately is also important for safe and effective use.

Prioritising your health

It can be tempting to skip over some of these health and safety procedures when you are managing a busy schedule and a demanding workload.

If you focus on your physical and mental wellbeing, ultimately you are likely to save time and reduce stress by looking after yourself. Back problems, repetitive strain injury and exhaustion are common problems for landscapers. By taking steps to avoid them, you are safeguarding not only your business, but your mind and body as well.

Playing it safe – protecting your business, and yourself

For landscape professionals, your business depends on your physical and mental wellbeing. Following these safety tips when working outdoors will go a long way towards creating a safe and successful future for you and your business.

Investing in high-quality equipment that is designed with your wellbeing in mind will pay dividends over the years for your health.

Kawasaki powered equipment is made to be not only powerful and efficient, improving your productivity, but comfortable to use, with ergonomic features and noise and vibration reducing technology built into our engines. Explore the range of equipment Powered by Kawasaki today.