Time to Plan Against Hypothermia

Wait – how can this be? What issue am I reading? We are in a heat wave! Hypothermia? Yes. Now is the time to plan your employee training schedule and plan how you will bring in your autumn and winter crews, with the next season in mind.

Autumn heralds winter’s arrival, and with that, we turn from keeping an eye on employee health and safety regarding heat related issues such as dehydration, or sunburns, or poison ivy, and turn to understanding the ways we need to avoid troublesome or dangerous health conditions related to low temps rather than our high summer temps.

The more we train our employees to know what to look for and how to avoid autumn and winter health and safety situations, the better employee attendance, and productivity will be.

We have typically put a lot of time and attention in spring and summer seasonal hires and onboarding process involving our company expectations and safety protocols about operating equipment or safety gear to wear onsite. Now is the time to totally shift gears and prepare for how company expectations and safety protocols pertain to wet weather and cold temperatures.

snowplow web

Operating equipment such as trucks with snow plows seems like an adventure the first few times for many employees. Sometimes there’s an excitement and a disregard for the demands placed on our bodies, while it seems we’re just driving a truck we’re used to driving, but with a plow on it now. You may have done some advanced scouting of properties so drivers on plow routes can become familiar before there’s snow with where the driveway bends a bit, or a stand of bushes needs to be avoided when dumping a load of snow. But don’t disregard the importance of encouraging employees to maintain good sleep hygiene and to curtail social activities that could impinge on the time needed to plow. The lack of sleep will catch up, and that is when mistakes can be made. From not doing a pre-route thorough examination of the vehicle, to hurrying from one job site to another to plow and hurry back home to a warm bed, protocols you expect as the employer (and are hopefully modeling) will be evident as you get complaint calls, or worse yet, see some nominal damage to vehicles or equipment.

The National Safety Council recommends winter vehicle safety tips such as keeping the gas tank at least half full to avoid gas lines freezing. Do you encourage each driver to maintain that level, and provide adequate time on the clock to do so? Have you stocked up on wiper fluid rated for -30F? Have you replaced wiper blades and even considered blades with extra snow load capability? Consider involving employees in the maintenance required on the vehicles so they will understand what you mean when you are asking if they are ready for snow. Some people hear that question, “Are you ready for snow?” and their minds go to ski trips, snowmobiling, backyard bon fires, and the overtime they may accrue during the anticipated blizzard conditions. Make sure safety considerations are firmly in place and aligned with your company’s policies and protocols.

Now is the time to check emergency preparedness kits, according to not only the National Safety Council, but to many large driving associations and OSHA. Reflective triangles in case of breakdowns or on vehicles simply for visibility, may have become cracked or encrusted with eroding salt brines since the last time they were used.
Other recommendations from seasoned tow truck companies, as well as the American Automobile Association and the California Highway Patrol, include keeping high-energy foods such as nutrition bars, packets of nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy on hand. These items (knock on wood) could be helpful for morale as well as beneficial in case of waiting for help if the truck is stranded in bad driving conditions. Sugar and protein are welcomed in the event of any extra time in the vehicle which was unanticipated.

Nowadays, not only a battery charger but also a cell phone charger are a given. And, while we are thinking of what to make sure is included in every vehicle you and your employees use in the winter, include a brightly colored safety vest, in case anyone has to walk out in the miserable conditions for any reason.

Any other favorite items to include for your employees driving your vehicles in the snow? What’s your favorite item to include after some horror story, such as that employee who had some kitty litter on hand to help get some traction when on an icy driveway? Share those real life stories when you have your autumn and winter meetings with your staff, so they see what can happen to anybody, could happen to everybody.

As for hypothermia. . .check the OSHA website for the training videos and posters you can download and post in your employee break room. Remember there are many learning styles, and some of your staff want to read the information you want to share and some are more effective at processing what you say to them during these informative meetings. You might consider some of the training videos offered through organizations specializing in safe snow removal along with the OSHA health and safety videos about causes of hypothermia and ways to avoid it. Some of the training programs you find are available free of charge and employees could view them anytime day or night, as convenient, long before the winter conditions set in.

As a conscientious employer and as a member of NHLA, it’s important for all of us to model our expectations and to ensure the health and safety of our employees. You might consider incentives, such as rewards or citations of some sort for viewing safety videos or for offering suggestions they may have, from the frontlines, to help improve situations they have seen firsthand. Rewarding suggestions and listening to suggestions and fresh ideas are ways we can ensure the values we set forth as NHLA members in this industry ensure that the profession grows and involves new members coming through the ranks and carrying on the NHLA tradition.

— by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Which Evergreen Trees and Shrubs for Privacy are Deer Resistant?

If you are planting evergreens for privacy, the last thing you want to worry about is deer damage. Landscapers in New Hampshire, particularly those in the southern counties and along the Connecticut River Valley, will undoubtedly come into conflict with deer at some point in time. Many evergreen plants serve as favorite winter food sources, including arborvitae, rhododendron, holly, and yew. In many cases, proximity to a house is not enough to deter hungry deer in the latter half of winter. Fortunately, there are some evergreen trees and shrubs that are mostly avoided by deer. While no plant is ever entirely safe from deer, the following selections usually escape damage in all but the leanest of times.

Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) has long been a favorite shrub for hedges, and it is one of the most deer-tolerant plants for gardens. It is considered a staple in formal gardens due to its tolerance of pruning and shearing. Though boxwood does not sport showy flowers, its deep green foliage grows densely and can form a good screen. Plants can grow in full sun to shade, but their leaves and branches aren’t as dense in the shade, and plants are less vigorous. Boxwood is hardy to zone 5 but may suffer damage in harsh winters. In many locations in New Hampshire, the evergreen foliage tends to turn brownish-yellow when plants are grown in areas with full sun and winter winds. Boxwood is best suited to sheltered locations where it will have some protection.

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica), sometimes known as Andromeda, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that can grow up to 10 feet tall, depending on variety. Pieris has glossy dark green leaves year-round and drooping white flower clusters in early spring that attract bumblebees and other pollinators. It grows very well in organically rich, acid soils in full sun to part shade, so if you’ve had luck with other acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, pieris will likely thrive as well. It is also tolerant of deep shade, setting it apart from other evergreens that do best with more sun exposure. As a zone 5 shrub, pieris tends to be most vigorous and suffer the least winter damage in southern New Hampshire. Despite occasional issues with lacebugs and winter injury, Japanese pieris is almost never bothered by deer.

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is one of the few native evergreen shrubs that deer largely ignore. Mountain laurel grows in the wild in various locations throughout New Hampshire. It is often used in landscapes due to its abundant, unusual flowers in late spring. The species sports white to pale pink flower clusters that can measure as much as six inches across. Many additional cultivated varieties have been introduced to the nursery trade that have blooms in various shades of pink, red, and combinations thereof. The leaves are leathery, dark green and otherwise similar to those of rhododendrons. Mountain laurel is a great choice for landscapes in part shade with moist, acidic, well-drained soil.

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is likely the closest alternative to arborvitae that can be grown in New Hampshire. Eastern red cedar is a native needled evergreen that has overlapping scale-like leaves. It is highly drought-tolerant and is a good choice for gardens with full sun and dry soil. It is also an excellent plant for wildlife, as many species of songbirds, such as Cedar Waxwings, will eat the blueish-gray, berry-like cones. On rare occasions, deer may browse the lower foliage, but Eastern red cedar usually escapes damage. One important thing to note is that Eastern red cedar is an alternate host for cedar apple rust and should not be planted near apples or crabapples.

Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) is another needled evergreen that is similar to Eastern red cedar in many regards. It also has scale-like foliage on mature branches and is highly tolerant of deer, drought, and dry soil. While plants can grow into large trees, a great number of smaller shrubby varieties can be found at garden centers. Chinese juniper is also susceptible to cedar apple rust and should not be grown in the vicinity of apples.

Inkberry (Ilex glabra) is a native evergreen holly species that is popular as a screen in garden settings because it is adaptable to both well-drained and wet soils. It has small, glossy, dark green leaves that are spineless, and produces small black fruit that are enjoyed by various songbird species. Inkberry is easy to grow in most landscapes, provided there is full sun or part shade. It will be at its best when planted in full sun in consistently moist, acidic soil. Inkberry is likely the best native shrub to grow as an informal hedge. Plant height varies considerably, depending on variety, so make sure to choose a form that will suit your landscape needs.

— by Emma Erler, UNH Extension Field Specialist