Safe Company Profile: Curby’s Lawn & Garden

May 15, 2018 -  By

Meet up Larry Craig, safety and quality control manager of Curby’s Lawn & Garden, conducts a monthly safety

When asked about the last time Curby’s Lawn & Garden dealt with an accident, Larry Craig, safety and quality control manager, replies “Maybe we had a minor traffic accident more than a decade ago, but it was so long ago, I can’t quite remember.”

A winner of the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ (NALP) 2016 Best of the Best Award, Curby’s is located in Gardner, Kan., and was founded in 1984. It’s been awarded NALP’s Overall Safety Achievement in Gold Award for three consecutive years (2014, 2015, 2016), with additional gold awards in 2007 and 2011, according to NALP.

Other safety awards from NALP include one bronze and four silver Overall Achievement Awards and eight Triple Awards (no injuries and illnesses, no days away from work and no vehicle accidents), among others.

The company employs up to 30 crew members and offers 85 percent design/build and installation, 15 percent irrigation and water management services to an 80 percent residential, 20 percent commercial clientele.

“I think our record just stands on its own,” says Craig, who has been with Curby’s for more than 20 years. “Everyone just tries to be aware, and it’s been drilled into them, so it’s automatic every morning.”

Craig, who has served as safety manager since 2004, adds safety has always been a top priority for the company.

“Curby himself has always stressed that safety is our No. 1 thing,” he says of the company’s owner, Curby Hughes.

To ensure all employees—new and seasoned—are on the same page, Craig leads a mandatory safety meeting each month.

If a crew member is unable to attend, the company arranges to discuss the information with him at a later date.

Typically lasting about 30 minutes on a Wednesday morning, each meeting takes place in the company’s conference room, with a hands-on demonstration in the field afterward, depending on the meeting’s topic.

Topics include:

  • First aid basics for addressing minor cuts and injuries with first aid kits provided in each company vehicle;
  • How to properly back up vehicles, such as trucks, trailers, skid loaders and front loaders, to avoid backing accidents;
  • Proper use of hand tools, such as chainsaws and gasoline trimmers, to avoid using or fueling when equipment is too hot;
  • Correct trailer attachment technique;
  • Avoiding hearing loss and wearing ear plugs when running noisy equipment;
  • Good housekeeping for keeping work areas free of clutter and debris; and
  • Drug and alcohol awareness, complete with a warning that drug or alcohol use on the job is terms for automatic dismissal.

Craig chooses topics from information he receives from industry magazine articles, Kansas State University (KSU), NALP and gas and electrical companies, among others.

During each meeting, he passes out a handout, with the relevant safety information written in English and Spanish.

The handouts are already translated into Spanish by the source organization, such as KSU, NALP or industry magazines, when Craig receives them, but Curby’s has two bilingual management staff members if further clarification is needed.

“We make copies in English and Spanish so employees can go over it, and if they have questions, they can ask,” Craig says. “Having the Spanish copy has always been helpful.”

At the meetings, Craig also addresses any safety-related problems that have cropped up within the past month.

“Crews are on board with safety measures, and they take an interest in not wanting to have an injury,” Craig says.

He says employees are not offered additional incentives for safe behavior, mostly because crews have learned to demonstrate such behavior on their own.

In addition to the monthly meetings, select staff members attend an annual meeting about digging safety, put on by Dig Safe, a nonprofit clearinghouse that notifies participating utility companies of contractors’ plans to dig.

811 is the phone number contractors can call before planning to dig.

Other safety initiatives include supplying each crew member with proper personal protective equipment, including gloves, ear plugs, a reflective safety vest and two pairs of safety glassesclear and tinted.

Curby’s also provides crews with coolers filled with water, especially during hot summer months.

“We want them to know what to watch for with heat strokes and for them to slow down and take a break if they start feeling something,” Craig says. “We tell them how to dress for the weather and that they need to hydrate the day before.”

For landscape companies hoping to improve their safety records, Craig’s advice is to consistently communicate with crews about safety.

“You can’t just say, ‘Here’s a handout, read this and try to be safe,’” he says. “You have to meet with the guys. You have to show them.”

For more tips to create a winning safety culture, check out our May cover story.

Photo: Curby’s Lawn & Garden

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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