Proper layering and frequent communication around cold-weather duties and needs can keep your team safe during winter months. Photo courtesy of Bobcat
As soon as temperatures start dropping, you should be sure beyond a “seasonable” doubt that your crew knows how to stay safe from cold stress, weather hazards, and other risks involved with maintaining a golf course in the winter season. (This
is especially important for facilities that are more prone to extreme weather conditions!) But don’t wait for the cold to roll in before jumping into action! To ensure everyone’s safety, make sure that you and your crew are prepared and
know the recommended practices ahead of time.
When it comes to cold weather safety, Woods Hole Golf Club superintendent Ryan Walsh is no stranger to the risks involved. Based in Woods Hole, Mass. Walsh, a 16-year GCSAA member, sees his fair share of extreme conditions and is well-versed in keeping
his crew safe when danger strikes. Golf Safety spoke to Walsh to see what processes he puts in place to ensure his crew's safety in cold weather conditions, and how he's found Golf Safety's videos on the subject helpful.
It's essential to remember that cold tolerance varies from individual to individual. Conditions that one crew member may be comfortable working in could be an issue for another. This is especially true for employees from warmer regions, and who may be
less accustomed to cold conditions.
For this reason, Walsh emphasizes that communication is key. "You've gotta listen to what your body is telling you," he says. "Everyone's built a little bit differently and has different tolerances, but I'm not going to be able to visually see someone
suffering from cold until it's too late." Keeping an open line of communication with your crew creates an environment where your staff feels comfortable expressing any concerns they might have. “It's just a matter of listening to the crew and
getting an understanding of their comfort level,” Walsh says.
When your team communicates with you that they’re struggling with the weather conditions, provide them the opportunity to rest and recover from the cold. At the Woods Hole facility, wintertime allows for longer lunch and coffee breaks throughout
the day so that the crew stays warm and rests adequately from the harsh outdoor conditions.
For Walsh,indoor breaks also offer a great opportunity for further communication with his crew. “Not only is it good for them to come in here and warm up,” Walsh says, “but to also brief me on progress and how things are going.”
The winter months see Walsh spending more time in his office, making the indoor breaks an opportunity for his team to connect with him, brief him on how the day’s tasks are going, and ask him any questions.
Ryan Walsh, superintendent of Woods Hole Golf Club in Woods Hole, Mass. Photo courtesy of Ryan Walsh
There’s no such thing as being too prepared when it comes to potentially hazardous cold weather conditions on the golf course. “I look at a lot of forecast models,” Walsh says. “You've got to be prepared for a multitude of things
out there.” To keep his crew safe, Walsh prepares for bad weather conditions and plans the crew's weekly tasks around them. “If I've got three good days and two bad days,” Walsh says, “we're going to take those three good days
and make sure we're outside getting done what we can. And then those other two we'll focus on indoor tasks.”
Ensure you know what potential risks may be incoming by staying prepared and regularly checking weather reports. Communicate any contingency plans with your team and keep them in the loop on upcoming conditions, so that they can prepare with the correct
winter gear in anticipation of the day’s tasks.
Speaking of winter gear, ensuring your crew has sufficiently warm layers to work in during the cold months is crucial to their safety. To keep them warm while they work, Walsh’s crew has recently been equipped with heavy-duty Carhartt sweatshirts
and hoodies to layer underneath their winter coats or rain gear. “They're layered to a point that even on a 40-degree day, maybe mid-30s, they really don't need a jacket to accompany it,” Walsh says. “We're investing in the comfort
of our employees.”
In addition to heavy-duty underlayers, Woods Hole Golf Club also offers its employees a 50% cost match on any rain gear they purchase to work in. “[They] invest 50% in raingear [they] can afford, and [we] take care of the other 50%,” explains
Walsh. This way, they know that any additional weather gear is to the employee's liking, and suits their needs perfectly. Preparation plays a part here too, as crew members should be fully informed of what gear they may need for certain weather conditions.
Communicate (and Repeat Yourself!)
Sometimes repetition is necessary to drive a message home! “I think the more you repeat [something], the more important people realize it is,” emphasizes Walsh. “Keep going over and over, it's going to be drilled into their minds.”
For him, at the end of the day, communication and repetition are the key factors in keeping his crew safe. In his pursuit of safety for his team, he’s focused on “the repetition of continuing to coach, continuing to lead, continuing to
When asked what’s been the most helpful aspect of working with Golf Safety, Walsh appreciated the thorough repetition of best safety practices. “I think the videos help me the most. [The crew] is not just hearing it from me … it's a
secondary voice to help instil some of these practices,” he says. “The videos are very thorough … they’re specially tailored to some seasonal stuff that we're going through, the repetition and some of the tasks that we see
on a daily basis.”
Don’t wait until the temperature drops to think about your crew’s cold weather safety. Be prepared ahead of time and keep a clear line of communication open with them to prevent the risk of cold stress. Through thorough repetition and training,
such as the Golf Safety training videos Walsh says he’s utilized, your crew has the best chance of staying safe when the cold hits.