Cemetery workers operate year round and in all weather. Tasked with job duties including groundskeeping, excavating, and equipment moving and setup, cemetery workers should use good work practices and get training on job hazards such as field safety, ergonomics, and excavation.
Grave digging at a cemetery may be done by hand or with excavating equipment. Before you dig, ensure that there are no underground hazards such as pipes or utilities; don’t assume the area is clear. Get training on the use and maintenance of excavating equipment and inspect it before each use. If you use manual digging tools, ensure they are the proper size and weight for you to use them properly; always use a functional and proper tool for the job.
Follow trenching safety rules when digging graves, as required by Cal/OSHA. Grave sides deeper than 5 feet should be shored with supports such as timber or metal struts and hydraulic jacks to avoid a collapse. (Note: Sloping is another safety measure for trenches.) Inspect the shoring equipment before each use; deteriorated timber or metal struts and faulty jacks should not be used. After the grave is excavated, mark the area clearly to prevent falls.
Gravesite operations include moving and setting up chairs and other furniture, pavilions, and caskets and their lowering devices. Use good body mechanics and proper lifting techniques when moving these items. When possible, use mechanical lifting equipment to get materials to the gravesite and set them up.
Marble, concrete, and other memorial stones dot the cemetery landscape. Due to the size and weight of these stones, take care when working around them; overturned stones can cause fatalities. Existing stones should be inspected periodically to ensure that they are firmly and securely set. When moving or installing memorial stones, use mechanical lifting devices; ensure that the load and rigging are secure before attempting to move the stone. Set and properly secure memorial stones.
Groundskeeping for cemeteries includes lawn maintenance, trimming trees and shrubs, and attending to grave sites. Inspect and maintain lawn equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as steel-toed boots and sturdy work gloves. When mixing and applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides, use chemical safety precautions such as safety goggles, impermeable coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves, and respiratory protection.
Practice field safety including sun protection and taking precautions for cold and heat stress. Learn about hazardous pests such as bees or spiders, and snakes, as well as the appropriate response and first aid for stings and bites. Avoid slips, trips, and falls by moving cautiously through the landscape and being aware of uneven ground. Avoid walking over grave sites and concrete slabs; older graves may cave in while slabs may be covered with slippery moss or lichen.
Practice safe cemetery operations and stay on top of your work.