Safety Spotlight: Ticks and the Powassan Virus

Friday, June 16, 2017
Tick Removal. SourceL CDC Website

The simplest method for removing ticks is to use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Thoroughly clean your hands and the bite area. Dispose of the tick by submersing it in alcohol and sealing it in a bag before throwing it away, or flush it down the toilet. Do NOT crush it with your fingers. (Source: CDC website.)

By Dave Sanders, Safety and Loss Prevention Manager

Each summer, we remind our field personnel to be aware of an increased presence of pests like mosquitos, bees and ticks. Many of us are familiar with taking precautions against ticks due to the risk of exposure to Lyme disease. But this year we are facing yet another threat with tick exposure known as the Powassan virus (POW). According to the Center for Disease Control, POW is a rare but often serious disease, with flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss, although many who are infected with POW do not develop symptoms. The virus can lead to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

How do Ticks Get on a Person?

  • Ticks do not jump, crawl, or fall onto a person. They are picked up when your clothing or hair brushes a leaf or other object they are on.
  • Ticks are generally found within three feet of the ground.
  • Once picked up, they will crawl until they find a favorable site to feed. Often they will find a spot at the back of a knee, near the hairline, or behind the ears.

Precautionary Measures:

  • When possible, avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass
  • Wear long pants, socks, and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck pants into socks or boots. Wear a hat and tie back long hair. Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be seen more easily.
  • Apply insect repellents containing DEET to bare skin
  • Clothing and gear can be treated with permethrin, which remains protective through several washings
  • After being outdoors, conduct a full-body tick check. Also examine clothing and gear. Be sure to check these areas:
  • ○ Parts that bend (back of knee, between fingers and toes, underarms)
    ○ Pressure points where clothing presses against skin (underwear elastic, belts, neck)
    ○ Other common areas (belly button, around or in ear, hairline, top of head)

  • Bathe or shower (preferably within 2 hours after being outdoors) to wash off and find ticks on your body. Find and remove ticks immediately before they have a chance to bite and attach.
  • Place clothing worn in tick-infested areas into the dryer for at least 30 minutes in order to kill any ticks.
  • If you want to have the tick checked for disease, place the tick in a clean vial or Ziploc bag with a blade of grass, and then contact your State Health Department for more information.

I encourage you to be extra vigilant this summer when working outdoors and especially near tall grasses or overgrown areas. This virus has been predominantly found in the Mid-Atlantic, so our Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia teams should be especially vigilant. If you begin to feel flu-like symptoms after finding a tick bite, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Your safety is our number one priority and it is our job to caution you against these risks. The more prepared you are, the better you are able to defend against summer safety threats such as tick-borne illnesses.

Safety Spotlight: Safety Keeps Us Growing (Mowing)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Mowing Safety

Before operating a mower, put on the required personal protection equipment (PPE)—
safety glasses, gloves, heavy rubber-soled boots, ear protection and safety vest.

By Dave Sanders, Safety and Loss Prevention Manager

Mower accidents result in more than 55,000 injuries annually and some 75 people die from their injuries, according to the American Orthopedic and Foot Society. A large portion of the injuries involves loss of toes or part of the foot. Most mower accidents occur on slopes when the ground is damp or there is poor visibility. Use these tips to ensure that you and your team members remain as safe as possible when operating a mower:

Before Beginning:

  • Make sure that the mower is in good operating order and that you have read the operator manual and are familiar with the safety decals
  • Ensure that all safety switches and operator presence controls are in proper working order and that the discharge chute is in the closed position
  • Choose the right size and type of mower for the situation and determine if conditions are amenable to riding a velke
  • Scout the site and remove objects that may become projectiles

While Operating:

  • Fasten seat belt to ensure that operator stays put within the protected area should a rollover occur. 
  • Don’t operate on slopes greater than manufacturers’ recommendations and stay off wet slopes.
  • Don’t get close to water, retaining walls or drop-offs and stay clear of autos and other objects. 
  • Watch for pedestrians/team members/site visitors and stop operating the mower if anyone gets near.

While we all want to be efficient and meet our production schedules, it’s important to be regimented and not cut corners when it comes to safety. The best rule of thumb for mowing safely is that if it looks unsafe, it probably is. So as we head into a busy mowing season, please do your part to keep us safe!            

Safety Spotlight: You Are the Critical Factor to Our Safety

Monday, December 12, 2016
Safety Harness

Crew members wear safety harnesses and pay special attention to their movements
and positions while installing planters on a rooftop deck.

By Dave Sanders, Safety and Loss Prevention Manager

“Safety Keeps Us Growing” – that’s our safety motto here at Ruppert Landscape. These few simple words mean we realize that the health and wellbeing of our company depends largely on the health and wellbeing of our employees. Our commitment to safety and performance excellence is underscored by our continuous promotion of a culture of safety, our safe work practices, the company’s safety training, and the implementation of a structured safety and loss prevention program.

While our injury rates are getting better, we have seen an uptick in the past couple of months. Many of our recent injuries are a result of not recognizing a hazard or making a poor decision by not adhering to a safety rule. Remember: safety rules and policies are in place for your protection. Taking shortcuts with the intention of getting a job done quicker only increases the risk of injury to you and your coworkers.

Our goal in accident prevention is, and must be, ZERO injuries along with no lost work time. Among the many roadblocks to achieving this goal is one in particular that the company can’t directly control and that is the human element. Our culture of safety and our loss prevention program won’t save you from an injury – if you don’t THINK.

Thinking and being aware of your surroundings is a personal action that no one else can do for you. Failure to think is the one unsafe act that contributes to nearly all accidents and 90% of all accidents are attributed to unsafe acts on the part of the worker. What we do or fail to do does have a direct effect on our personal safety. How often have you done something on impulse only to say afterward, “Why did I do that?” Perhaps you were confused, angry, daydreaming or just in a hurry, but whatever the reason, your attention just wasn’t focused on what you were doing. Paying closer attention to the task at hand will enable you to work safely and more productively.

So as we wrap up this year and look forward to the holidays and a busy 2017 and beyond, we ask you to protect yourself and your co-workers by thinking ahead. Follow the rules and do it the right way every time. If we can get in the habit of concentrating on what we are doing and doing it safely, we will be well on our way to achieving our goal of ZERO injuries and helping us live the Ruppert mantra “Safety Keeps Us Growing.” 

Safety Spotlight: Safety Committee Sets Us Up for Success

Thursday, September 29, 2016


By Dave Sanders, Safety and Loss Prevention Manager

For us, safety is not only a policy, it is part of our culture. We build safety practices and principles into our everyday routines, measure our success to hold ourselves accountable, and do our best to make the workplace a safer environment for our people and to provide a quality, safe service for our customers. Over the past five years, our labor hours have increased by 75% while our OSHA Recordable Incident Rate has decreased by 26%. This trend is no accident (pun intended) – one of the main reasons for this success is the continued efforts of our Safety Committee.

The Safety Committee was established over 10 years ago with the goal of minimizing injury to our people and those around us on the jobsite, on the road, and at every branch office and shop facility. Each branch has a dedicated safety representative who is responsible for emphasizing training and reporting on the branch’s annual safety efforts, administering and recording weekly tailgate topics, and attending quarterly meetings and bi-weekly safety calls. On the calls, the committee reviews incident stats, trends and year-over-year improvement, current driving behaviors on the dashboard cameras, any recent incidents and potential prevention methods, as well as seasonal hazards and relevant safety topics.

At the most recent quarterly safety meeting, the committee spent two days together covering a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Industry Topics—We had several guest speakers from our insurance partners, CRS and the Hartford, come to discuss hot topics and OSHA updates including the new silica standard, aimed at preventing exposure to silica and working safely with concrete. The group learned how the new ruling affects us and how we can keep our employees safe from silica exposure. One of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce exposure is wet cutting which minimizes the amount of dust particles in the air.
  • Claims Management—Dr. Robert Blink from Worksite Partners Medical Group was on hand to explain how we can get the best results from our continued use of the 24-7 injury hot line and answered questions from the group.
  • New IT Innovations–-Our IT department is working on a number of new solutions which will positively impact the company’s safety, including electronic claim reporting & alerts and a safety inspection checklist through the Ruppert Mobile Application.
  • New Training Tools—The employee development team’s new Learning Management System (LMS) presents unique opportunities for more enhanced and efficient safety training.

On Day 2 of the quarterly safety meeting, we took a field trip to a local shooting range. While this may seem counterintuitive, there are many parallels between the safe operation of a firearm and the safe operation of the vehicles, tools and equipment that we use on a daily basis. The group attended an introduction to firearms course, worked with range personnel to learn proper procedures and then did some friendly competitive target shooting. After the shooting range, the group rounded out the day with a few more industry-related demonstrations and discussions held at our Frederick, MD landscape management branch.

Our quarterly safety meetings are just one example of how we are making safety a priority and not an afterthought. Through the use of our bi-weekly safety calls, stretch & flex and morning huddle programs, tailgate talks, and consistent safety reminders, we are helping to generate ongoing dialogue about what it means to be safe on a jobsite, in the production yard and while operating vehicles, tools and equipment. Our Safety Committee, which is made up of one representative from each branch, helps us put feet on the ground in every location—spreading the message that safety keeps us growing.

Pictured L to R: Dylan Augenreich (RIM), Collin Fadrowski (BAM), Mark Innis (GAL),
Vispi (LIM), Joe Beretz (GVM), Ryan Rimshaw (FRM), Dave Sanders (CORP),
Ken Thompson (CORP), John Oubre (MAM), Melissa Dunk (FRM) and Chris Schneider (CORP)

This article was originally featured in our Greensheet newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here.

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