The chemical storage space at TPC Craig Ranch, one of the top-rated golf clubs in Texas. Photos courtesy of Jim Osborne
When it comes to chemical safety in the workplace, there's no such thing as an overreaction. Golf course facilities store potentially hazardous chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides. Whether your crew is working with those
chemicals directly or indirectly, they must be aware of the risks involved and the appropriate safety measures they need to take to protect themselves from potential risks.
For deeper insight into chemical safety procedures on a golf course facility, Golf Safety spoke to Jim Osborne, Golf Course Superintendent at TPC Craig Ranch, one of the top-rated golf clubs in Texas, and 23-year GCSAA member. He shared his top chemical safety tips, and
also how he's found Golf Safety's videos useful in ensuring his crew’s safety.
Safe storage is an essential part of chemical safety. For Osborne, that means keeping the chemicals in a separate storage area and limiting traffic to that area as much as possible.
"Leave that to the guys that know what's going on," Osborne says, "keep it in a separate area."
Chemicals should be stored in a different building and should be organized and labeled correctly to ensure all crew members are aware of what chemicals they're handling at all times.
Osborne explains that organization is extremely important as well.
"We have a system for everything,” Osborne says. “We try to keep things stored, categorized, and clean so that we're not just grabbing things and ending up with the wrong thing in the wrong place. Labels can come off if you don't have things
stored properly and if you don't have good shelving or a clean area. If you just have stuff sitting on the ground it gets kicked and bumped and the labels get ripped."
Make sure your crew responsibly organizes and stores their chemicals, from the minute they are delivered to when they are placed back on the shelf after use. Keep all chemicals in their original containers with their correct labels to avoid dangerous
mishaps. Should the label on a container become damaged, removed, or illegible, print out a new one to replace it. Most importantly, don't leave chemicals outside of their proper storage area.
Ensuring your crew has access to the correct PPE is paramount when handling hazardous chemicals. Protective equipment that your crew could need includes gloves, safety glasses, rubber boots, chemical-resistant aprons, coveralls, and more.
At Osborne's facility, crew keep cabinets stocked with the necessary protective equipment so that they can access what they need at all times.
"The other piece of it is making sure that they're using it," adds Osborne, playfully. "Fortunately, our applicators are very conscientious of that."
Occasionally, however, even the most seasoned crew member needs a refresher. Regular meetings to remind team members about the importance of PPE are always helpful. One easy way to communicate the risks to them is through safety training videos.
Jim Osborne, superintendent of TPC Craig Ranch and 23-year GCSAA member.
When it comes to safety, Osborne says education is paramount. "Everybody that sprays or does chemical application here has a [pesticide] license," Osborne says, an impressive fact that is not standard for all facilities. "I realize you only need one or
two [licensed applicators], but... the people that are doing it have been educated now, they're not relying on me to teach them. They've been taught, they've read the books, they've taken the tests, they've done the continuing education."
As far as Osborne is concerned, an educated crew is a safe crew, and going through these training processes ensures that crew members are experienced in how to handle chemicals and that they know exactly what PPE they should be using while they work.
Anyone entering a storage facility containing potentially hazardous chemicals or handling those chemicals should have the expertise to work safely. Or, as Osborne says, "The folks that are going in there, make sure they're educated."
Not everyone who works on a golf facility is a licensed applicator, however, and that's where Golf Safety's training videos come in handy for the crew at TPC Craig Ranch.
"The good thing about Golf Safety’s videos is that they apply to everyone," Osborne says. "Even though they might not have a pesticide license or be doing that type of thing all the time, they bring awareness to the whole group. They’re made
with the understanding that I'm not talking to a licensed applicator, I'm talking to a group of people who are going to be around this and exposed to it, they may never use it, but they definitely need to be aware of the risk involved."
When it comes to handling potentially dangerous chemicals, it's always better to be safe than sorry and to make sure you have as much support as possible from your crew. "The biggest thing for us as far as tips and safety for handling things is the check
and double-check," Osborne says. "If I'm mixing up [chemicals] I want somebody there with me. Having two people, if not three, at all times, that's one of the biggest things for making sure we don't have a screwup."
Though chemical safety has come a long way in the decades that golf facilities have been spraying them, it's still important to be cautious when handling them. Osborne issues a pertinent warning to be careful no matter how safe we may think they are today.
"I always ask people this question: when you were using chemicals thirty years ago you probably thought it was completely fine too, right? We found things out later. What's to say that we don't think we have it all figured out now and ten, fifteen, twenty
years down the road something starts causing problems for folks." Though the chemicals we use today are safer to handle than they used to be, your crew should always be cognizant of their health and safety.
It's important to keep your crew educated and their safety front of mind, especially when they are handling potentially hazardous chemicals at work. Golf Safety is passionate about training that is accessible and easy to understand, ensuring everyone
on your crew is educated about the risks involved in the workplace and the steps they need to take to protect themselves. After all, as Osborne can attest, an educated crew is a safe crew.