Spring is in full swing, and your rental counter is likely to be full of home-owners and landscapers looking to rent lawn and grounds equipment. This can been a boon to your bottom line, but don't forget that your top priority with these customers must be safety.
Emphasizing safety will not only keep your customers alive, healthy and coming back to your store, it might even help reduce your insurance costs. While having a good safety program in place will not reduce your premiums on its own, it can improve your accident record, which can help lower your premiums.
Included in any good safety program should be the importance of conveying proper safety information to your customers.
"Rental centers should strongly urge their customers to read the owner's manual for the piece of equipment they're renting out, and make sure that the manual is included with the equipment rental," says Bill Harley, president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. "[You] should also explain the operation of the equipment and the specific safety concerns with that piece of equipment."
In addition to the owner's manual, any related safety literature, if available, should be included with the rental. Also, showing short safety videos at your rental center can help customers better understand the equipment they're about to rent.
Be sure to advise your renters on personal protection equipment (PPE). Gloves, hearing protection and safety goggles are recommended for all lawn and grounds equipment. Some of your rentals will require specific PPE, such as chaps with a chainsaw or a helmet with a pole saw.
Tony Kuehn, senior risk control consultant with St. Paul Travelers, has a few more suggestions for pre-rental consultation.
"Make sure all the safety features, such as a deadman's switch, are functioning properly and have not been circumvented by the operator, and tell him or her not to disable them," he says. "Inquire about what they're going to be using the piece of equipment for - are they going to use the lawn mower to trim their hedges, or are they going to use it to cut their lawn? Also ask who will be the ultimate user - will the person standing in front of you be using the equipment or will he be giving it to a 14-year-old kid down the street?"
Kuehn adds that in some extreme cases where there is doubt about the customer's ability to safely use the equipment, it might be safest for everyone if a rental center came right out and said, "I'm not comfortable renting you this piece of equipment."
General safety tips
Although most lawn and grounds equipment is relatively easy and safe to use - manufacturers have spent years coming up with and perfecting safety features for their equipment - there are a few safety points that you should be sure to mention before each piece of lawn and grounds equipment leaves your yard.