Being vigilant about greenhouse safety is a must for any commercial grower. Multiple potential electrical, chemical and equipment dangers exist in commercial greenhouse settings, so growers must take steps to protect their structures, plants and, of course, employees.
Many of the most common safety hazards can be managed with proper training, maintenance and vigilance. Adherence to this approach is important since very often greenhouse operations may not always be convenient to fire stations and water sources to extinguish a blaze, for example.
For commercial growers, educating employees on equipment safety, chemical safety, fire prevention, personal protective equipment and more is one of the most proactive ways to prevent downtime due to injury or damage.
With that in mind, here are some safety tips to consider as you take precautions to protect the most important assets that contribute to the success of your commercial growing operation.
- Keep aisles and walkways clear and even or level to prevent accidental slips, trips and falls.
- Ensure adequate clearance of exits, breaker boxes, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, etc., so in the event of an evacuation safety equipment can be easily identified.
- Encourage employees to: hydrate regularly when working in hot conditions, even when they aren’t thirsty; wear hats and light-colored clothing; keep an eye on fellow workers; and be mindful of their location in case they need to call for assistance.
- Work in teams in the greenhouse so no one is alone in case assistance is needed or an emergency occurs.
- Wear closed-toe footwear and safety glasses or eye protection, particularly when using chemicals, pruning or using machinery.
- Be cautious when using tools, as many used in the greenhouse are sharp. The same goes for benches or shelves, which typically have sharp corners.
- Monitor weather conditions, and in the event of lightning, hail or high winds, move from the greenhouse to a sturdier structure.
- Compartmentalize your greenhouse into as many fire zones as possible. Use non-combustible materials for walkways and partitions, as well as firebreaks in glazing and shade cloth.
- Protect boilers from glazing by using non-combustible materials to provide a protective barrier.
- Locate electrical panels, switches, heating pipes, CO2 generators, etc. a safe distance away from glazing materials or shade cloth.
- Separate storage rooms, utility rooms and heating plants from the main greenhouse floor when possible.
- Evacuate the greenhouse immediately if there is a fire. Set off the alarm and notify authorities. Acrylic greenhouse coverings are highly flammable and the fumes are hazardous. Acrylic should only be installed using polycarbonate as a firebreak.
- Use electrical equipment that is well-grounded and power is supplied by extension cords that can adequately support the current. Do not use electrical equipment if the floors are wet or it is near moisture pads.
- Greenhouse floors become slippery when wet, particularly when algae forms on floors in propagation areas. Stay on rubber mats as much as possible, and plan to treat floors to treat algae growth.
- Conduct regular walk-throughs with other team members to identify and address hazards proactively.