Keeping It Green By Ron Hall

The two most popular phrases in America are “all you can eat” and “it’s free.” It’s unlikely that any of you reading this are in the buffet business, so let’s talk about the most valuable “it’s free” thing going for landscape and lawn service companies.

Let’s talk about STARS, the gratis safety program offered by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET). STARS is an acronym for Safety Training Achieves Remarkable Success. It’s one of PLANET’s most valuable programs. PLANET has been offering it for years, and more than 1,250 green industry companies have taken advantage of it.

The program’s goals are both humanitarian and financial. It offers company owners and managers, like you, guidance and information to eliminate unsafe conditions, reduce the likelihood and incidence of workplace injuries within your companies and, also, lower your workers’ compensation and damage claims.

Small companies benefit, too

While 1,250 might seem like a lot of green industry operations adopting STARS, it’s really not – not in the U.S. landscape/lawn service universe of more than 100,000 owner/operators, with the majority well below $200,000 in annual revenues. Those of you running small companies face the same workplace hazards and the same financial risks as larger companies. The biggest difference, perhaps, is that one severe injury – either to yourself or one of your employees – might be enough to put you out of business, whereas a larger company can usually take the hit and keep going.

Even as the owner of a small company, you’re responsible for the safe operation of your service vehicles (typically trucks pulling loaded trailers) on busy roads; you rely upon same big, tough machinery with whirring blades to perform your services; and you work in the same demanding weather as the big boys, be it mid-winter’s bitter cold or July’s blazing heat.

Beyond that, your operation faces the same competitive and customer service pressures to get work done in the least amount of time, and, again like much larger companies, often relying upon the efforts unskilled or semi-skilled employees. That’s the reality of the landscape services industry.

“So, what exactly is STARS, why should I be considering it and how do I get involved?” you might reasonably ask about now.

STARS, as mentioned previously in this short column, is a safety initiative offered by PLANET and sponsored by CNA, PLANET’s insurance partner. The goal of the program, repeating again, is to lower your total costs (i. e. insurance claim costs) of risk by reducing hazards and injuries.

Free safety CD

You are asked to sign the STARS Safe Company Pledge that commits you as an owner or manager to develop a strong safety program in your company. PLANET provides you with a CD that will be a great help in guiding you in building a culture of safety in your company. It is called Safety Program for Green Industry Companies and it will show you how to actively promote safety in your company, and how to investigate and document every job-related injury, incident or accident.

The CD covers topics including motor vehicle safety, preventing back injuries, return-to-work/modified duty programs, chemical safety, reporting and investigating accidents, complying with OSHA and more.

It also provides 50 ready-to-use forms, sample policies, payroll stuffers and other safety ideas used by others in the green industry, along with checklists.

Joining STARS also qualifies you to participate in PLANET’s Safety Recognition Awards Program and to share best practices with other STARS members.

To learn more about STARS or to become a STARS member, visit the PLANET website at and click on the Safety & Risk Management notation at the top of the page, email or call 800-395-2522.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that participating in STARS and getting the safety CD with all the great safety information is free? It doesn’t cost a thing other than your commitment to safety.

Ron Hall