I plucked a picture out of my files for my May column to be a kind of fun image showing how crappy irrigation repair work can be and that it would be a better job for someone other than the superintendent or the assistant. The picture generated a comment from one of our GCI readers. Editor Mike Zawacki and publisher Pat Jones love to get comments on the magazine content, but let’s face it, irrigation doesn’t generate a lot of controversy or deep personal feelings.
Randy Rosenthal, general manager at Hunting Creek Country Club in Prospect, Ky., sent me an email commenting on the picture. Richard, the person in the picture, is not all that tall but it is still a substantial excavation to just change a sprinkler and a swing joint. Randy’s comment involved how common it was for golf course maintenance personnel to do repair work like the type shown in the picture under such conditions and do not consider the safety of the hole. He mentioned that his club had in the past been in a similar situation. The maintenance staff was making a repair in a hole, one that was not as deep, but was located along the road. Unfortunately, an OSHA inspector happened to drive down the road, noticed the hole and paid them an unexpected visit. Along with the visit, came an unexpected and hefty fine to the club.
As Randy pointed out to me, heeding OSHA requirements in your maintenance facility are likely part of you and your club’s overall management regime and not an issue, but out on the golf course it is not likely on you and your employees’ minds. OSHA requirements for construction are not something the average private golf club — nor superintendent — is usually familiar with. For example, there are strict OSHA requirements for the shoring of excavations. These requirements are based on the excavation depth and size. They are in place to protect the safety of workers.
Based on Randy’s email, I thought of a number of golf course irrigation issues that come under the OSHA regulations/guidelines that you may or may not have considered. The obvious one is excavations. Another is transite pipe. Transite pipe, which was used in many golf course irrigation systems in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has an asbestos component to it. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. In truth, because transite pipe is a hazardous material, it should only be removed by a licensed remediation contractor. On golf courses, we usually just repair transite like it was PVC with few, if any, precautions taken.
Because we are talking about PVC, what about the cleaner, primer and solvent cement? When working with these solvents, gloves should be worn and there should be proper ventilation. In a deep hole the fumes have nowhere to go and build up.
Your pump station also requires caution. If you have a prefabricated pump station, there are most likely no safety issues as it should have been manufactured with required safety items installed at the factory. If you have an aging system that has had significant maintenance or a built-in place pump system, you want to make sure that rotating parts are covered and electrical equipment is properly grounded. Make sure the wet well is covered – I fell in one once and it is not a lot of fun – and that there is proper ventilation as well as adequate entrance and exit points.
Because maintenance is not construction, we do not always consider the ramifications of some of the tasks we ask employees to perform. Remember that water under pressure – especially high pressure – is a dangerous situation. Always use caution.
Brian Vinchesi, the 2009 EPA WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Year, is president of Irrigation Consulting Inc., a golf course irrigation design and consulting firm headquartered in Pepperell, Mass., that designs irrigation systems throughout the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978/433-8972.