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Golf Course Service Vehicle Safety

When most people think about vehicles on a golf course, golf carts immediately come to mind. But, there’s far more four-wheeled equipment on a golf course than what your members and their guests use to traverse your track.

Pickup trucks used for general maintenance and light hauling, lift trucks for landscaping and building maintenance, ATVs for service work, tractors with various attachments, and mowers are the most common types of service vehicles used on and around a golf course. Add in several dozen golf carts driven by players throughout any given day, and the risk exposure for any of those vehicles to cross paths with each other – or with pedestrians -- is fairly high.

As a club owner or manager, your priority is to ensure the safety of all members, guests, and employees by mitigating your risk exposure by developing, implementing, and enforcing a strong vehicle safety program for everyone to comply with.

At a minimum, the following elements should be included in your vehicle safety program. These will help ensure that your service vehicles are operated without risk to your members, guests, and employees themselves:

  • Qualified operators
  • Well-maintained equipment
  • Safe work practices

Qualified Operators

Only persons capable and qualified to operate any of your club’s service vehicles safely should be allowed to do so. Because each piece of equipment is unique according to make, model, and manufacturer, appropriate training should be provided to your employees. Operators should have a solid understanding of the owner’s manual for each vehicle they will be operating, particularly the manufacturer’s safety requirements and the vehicle’s limitations.

Because of the hazards of operating a service vehicle on a golf course, all operators should be required to use appropriate personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE:

  • Hard hat – Many serious, and sometimes fatal, accidents have happened when motorized equipment rolls over or collides with other objects. For this reason, hard hats should be worn where and when appropriate.
  • Eye protection – Goggles and, at appropriate times, a full face shield should be worn when spraying, seeding, and when performing work among trees, bushes, or tall grass. Branches, thorns and even insects have been known to cause serious injuries to the eyes of golf course personnel. The goggles or face shields should carry the American National Standard Institute label (ANSIz87.1 or equivalent). Gray- or green-tinted goggles or shields are the best for use in sunlight; after sundown, clear lenses or shields should be worn.
  • Boots/shoes – All service vehicle operators should be required to wear high-quality boots or over-the-ankle, tightly laced work shoes. The soles and heels should be consist of slip-resistant materials, not leather or neoprene type.
  • Gloves and clothing – We normally recommend long-sleeved shirts, full-length pants, and well-padded gloves to protect hands, arms, legs, and body when working around a golf course. Loose-fitting clothes that could easily get snagged should be avoided.
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen – We highly recommend golf course workers use appropriate grades of insect repellent and sunscreen. Disease-carrying mosquitos and ticks are a particular concern.

Well-maintained Equipment

Your fleet of service vehicles should not only be kept in good working order, they should be a source of pride to your club and its members. True, most golfers would rather not wait in the middle of the first fairway while one of your superintendent’s summer interns finishes mowing the green. But, because your mowers are in top condition with finely sharpened blades, members are able to brag about your club’s ultra-smooth putting surfaces.

Servicing and maintaining your service equipment according to owner’s manuals is obviously the responsibility of your head superintendent and their staff. Special attention should be given to the tires, brakes, and safety equipment.

Each piece of service equipment should be inspected daily, and prior to each use, the operator should complete a walk-around safety check of the following:

  • Battery for full charge
  • Fuel level
  • All engine fluid levels
  • Tires for cuts or defects
  • Steering control
  • Horn and reverse indicators
  • Warning lights
  • Brakes and clutch
  • All controls
  • Overhead guards and fire extinguishers
  • Unusual engine sounds

Safe Work Practices

Before their crews head out to their respective assignments, your superintendent should review with them the day’s tasks and the possible hazards they could encounter. Service vehicle operators should be made aware of those potential hazards so they can take the necessary precautions. They should also be reminded of the following safety rules:

  • Vehicles should be operated in a safe and responsible manner; violators of safety rules should be subject to disciplinary action, including job termination.
  • One person to a seat – no riders should be allowed in a cargo box of anywhere else a seat is not provided.
  • Always use both hands for steering.
  • Drive slowly when turning; sharp, high-speed turns or abrupt maneuvers can cause some vehicles to overturn or go out of control.
  • Reduce speed and use extreme caution on slopes or rough terrain.
  • Stay alert for holes, rocks, and other hidden hazards.
  • DO NOT overload the vehicle, and avoid shifting loads; reduce the load when operating over rough or hilly ground.
  • Park on a level surface, not on a slope; lock the park brake; stop the engine; remove the key; before leaving the operator’s seat, wait for the engine and all moving parts to stop.
  • Never operate a utility vehicle while standing or while the cargo box is raised.
  • Never leave a vehicle unattended when the engine is running.
  • Be alert at all times; drive forward and backward carefully. People can move quickly into an area of operation.

Fuel Handling

Fuel and fuel vapors are highly flammable. Operators should take the following precautions:

  • DO NOT refuel while smoking, when the machine is near an open flame or sparks, or when the engine is running.
  • Refuel outdoors.
  • Clean oil, grease, and dirt from the vehicle. Clean up spilled fuel immediately.
  • DO NOT store a vehicle with fuel in the tank in a building where fumes may reach an open flame or spark.
  • Use only non-metal, portable containers approved by the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM). If using a funnel, make sure it’s plastic and has no screen or filter.
  • Static electricity can ignite gasoline vapors in an ungrounded fuel container. Remove the fuel container from the bed or trunk of a vehicle and place it on the ground away from the vehicle before filling. Keep the nozzle in contact with the container opening while filling.
  • If practical, remove equipment from trailers or truck beds and refuel the equipment on the ground. If this is not possible, use a portable, plastic fuel container to refuel the equipment on a truck bed or trailer.

Conclusion

Your club’s fleet of service vehicles allow your grounds crew to work easier and smarter. However, there are potential hazards your crew faces when operating those vehicles. Developing, implementing, and enforcing a solid vehicle safety program can help to mitigate the risk exposures your club faces. As a club owner or manager, understanding the exposures to your business allows you to have an educated conversation with your insurance agent or broker who can provide you with the most competitive rates in your area.

By David A. Harnois, CCM, CPL

David is a proud employee owner of Affinity Club Underwriters, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs and may be reached at (319) 800-6676 or at david.harnois@affinityclubs.com.

ABOUT AFFINITY

Affinity Club Underwriters, a division of VGM Insurance Services, is a wholesale program insurance provider specializing in the club, golf and hospitality sector. They offer claims management services, operations and coverage audits, policy and information storage and archaeology, RFP preparation, market analysis, and help in developing specific loss control programs.

Affinity is the exclusive provider of the Affinity Club Program for private and semi-private clubs. Affinity is an industry-leading insurance program administrator led by club industry experts.

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