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Parks and recreation employees have daily exposure to numerous hazards. Whether it is a potential snakebite, inclement weather or exposure to heat, employees need to be aware of the potential hazards and how to avoid injury. Employees should know the steps to take to avoid such hazards. 

Pest or Animal Hazards
The best way for an employee to avoid a potential bite is to remove themselves from the situation. The employee can communicate to animal control or a pest control company to remove the hazard, but employees should also understand that they might not see the snake or spider before exposure. Employees should be trained on the proper first aid techniques and how to request emergency services at a specific location. 

Inclement Weather
Inclement weather can take on many forms throughout the seasons. Employees need to have communication devices and know their specific location in the event they need to call for help. Supervisors are to have a way to communicate that inclement weather is fast approaching and employees should seek shelter.

Heat Stress
Employees should also know the signs and symptoms of heat stress and what to do to immediately reverse these conditions. Watch Risk Management Services’ short training video on heat stress to learn more on avoiding heat-related illnesses. 

Equipment Maintenance
Proper maintenance on all aspects of parks, sports fields, nature trails, playground equipment and facilities should be performed and documented. Maintenance includes the completion of work orders and inspection for hazards, such as ungrounded receptacles, missing receptacle covers, chemicals that are not labeled properly, missing or inoperable ground fault circuit interrupters within 6 feet of a water source, discharged fire extinguishers, fire extinguishers that are not inspected every month, and damaged personal protective equipment that needs to be removed from service immediately.  

Chemicals and Machinery
Proper training for chemicals and machinery is essential for worker safety. Chemicals such as chlorine for pools, weed killers or even cleaning agents can be especially dangerous. Employees are to be trained on chemical hazards per the safety data sheet. Employees are to wear appropriate personal protective equipment while using chemicals. If the chemicals require eyewash and shower stations, employees should receive training on the proper use and location of these devices. 

If employees use or have exposure to dangerous machinery, such as lawnmowers, chainsaws and weed eaters, they should be properly trained per the operator’s instructions. No one should operate a piece of equipment without training.

Volunteers
Some municipal functions, such as parks and recreation, rely heavily on volunteers. Background checks should be conducted on all volunteers. The training for volunteers and employees should be identical. Volunteers should receive specific job description  which they are not to deviate from this during their time volunteering. To limit its liability, the municipality can purchase an accident medical insurance policy to cover volunteers who are not covered by workers’ compensation. Another way to limit liability is to have volunteers sign a waiver of liability acknowledging the risks and agreeing to not hold the city liable for any injuries. Because the waiver is a legal document, municipal officials should consult with their attorney before using this method. 

For further information on mitigating parks and recreation injuries and losses, including facility inspection and audits, contact John Ciesielski, loss control consultant, at jciesielski@masc.sc