Winter allows most of us some time to review, reorganize and, in some cases, revise some of our regulations and methods.
One of the areas you’ll no doubt find yourself reviewing is your safety program – both on the course and in and around the shop.
A particular safety concern I wanted to address is with the ears of your workers. I say ears instead of hearing because I’m not actually talking about noise reduction. Unless you’ve been tucked under a big rock for the last decade or so, you’re quite aware of the popularity of cellphones and the earpieces attached to them.
Of course, the quick and easy answer most of us would give if asked about allowing earphones for entertainment purposes is, “No, we don’t.”
But I wonder … if we’re actually giving the answer that we don’t allow such devices, do we really mean it? Or, if we’re being totally honest, do we turn a blind eye every now and then?
Going back 20-plus years or so, when I started working on golf courses and operating equipment, I’ll tell you frankly that I did listen to headphones. Of course they were attached to Walkmans back then. It wasn’t allowed, but I can’t say that fact in and of itself stopped me or others on the crew from sneaking them on from time to time.
So for me to sit here today and tell you that since I don’t allow it on my golf course it isn’t happening, well, I’d not only be kidding you, but I’d be kidding myself as well.
Sometimes we have to utilize a little something called common sense.
Do I think a worker mowing rough and listening to music is putting himself and others in more danger than if said worker simply had earplugs in? I guess my answer would probably be yes, but only slightly more. Perhaps less than a few percentage points more dangerous at most. So, if it’s more dangerous, even if only slightly, it probably shouldn’t be allowed.
But that’s with operating mowers. How about when a worker is cutting cups? What about filling divots? What about raking bunkers? How about pulling weeds in the clubhouse’s landscape beds?
If we think that perhaps our workers are sneaking earphones under their hats out on the course, is there a chance we can allow it in some safer instances, which may, in turn, keep them from doing it in the more dangerous situations?
If you strictly forbid something without allowing any concessions or any common sense to factor in, that’s when people tend to sneak around behind your back and make their own decisions. I believe that if you implement common sense and even listen to them and some of their suggestions, you can find a happy medium.
The trick is finding a happy medium not only with your workers, but with OSHA as well. But it can be done, as long as you communicate everything well with everyone on the crew.
Find jobs your workers can do where you can allow (legally) entertainment earpieces to be used. Anything not involving operating equipment is open for consideration, although each job would have to be looked at individually.
Touching up bunkers. Repairing an irrigation leak. Filling fairway divots. Filling ball washers. Painting hazard lines. There are countless jobs on the golf course that are done daily that have nothing to do with sitting on or walking behind a mower.
The one consideration you may want to make clear with everyone is if you want to limit said listening to only situations when golfers are not around. But even if you do set this rule, there are many times when we can put our workers into situations when they are away from golfers, especially in the morning hours.
Again, the key is deciding on allowances, and then communicating them to everyone involved. Chances are good that allowing someone to listen to music while pulling weeds may very well keep them from doing it when they truly shouldn’t be.