Healthy crew, healthy course

Try these suggestions for improving safety and preventive measures for your crew during cold and flu season.


Filed to: Health, Leadership

Man outside using a tissue to blow his nose

As the winter chill rages on, preparing your crew for cold and flu season is key to keeping them safe. Viruses may be invisible, but they can have severe effects on your crew. The CDC notes that flu activity peaks between December and February, which means your chances of sick crew members are likely spiking right now.

To help you put preventative measures in place, here are some insights from Mike Gracie, the superintendent of Redlands Country Club in California, and 16-year GCSAA member. Gracie is no stranger to the impact contagious diseases can have on employees, from seasonal flu to more dangerous pandemics like COVID-19. Leading a crew through a pandemic is no easy feat, but Gracie successfully managed to guide them through uncharted waters with his safety expertise. He shared his experiences and his most important tips for other superintendents.

Person inside a golf course shop using hand sanitizer to clean their hands

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Putting preventative strategies in place is the first and most important step in reducing the risks to your crew during cold and flu season. During pandemics, these preventative strategies are even more crucial. Gracie reflects on managing his crew during this time, saying, “It was just about being smart. Taking our [crew’s] temperature beforehand, and if they were feeling a little off, [telling them] ‘don't come in.’” Take the time to clearly outline your preventative strategies and make sure all crew members understand their responsibilities. Consider what steps your crew must take to protect themselves and their crewmates and build up a culture of safety in your workplace.

At Redlands Country Club, safety is of utmost priority during cold and flu season. “We stress that through our workplace procedures,” Gracie says. “Washing hands, being sanitary, making sure that we're doing our best to prevent any spread.” Communication

Whether you’re weathering a worldwide pandemic, or simply trying to reduce illnesses among your crew during flu season, effective communication is crucial. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gracie says that regular communication was the best tool in his arsenal.

“We met about it every day,” Gracie says. “We overcommunicated the importance of [keeping] as many people healthy as we can.” If an illness is going around that could threaten your crew members, regular communication reminding them of your facility’s preventative measures will help to reduce the risks of that illness spreading further. If there is a particularly dangerous illness threatening your crew, keeping them up to date on important information is another crucial safety step. Gracie reflects on how he communicated with his crew during the pandemic. “For us, it was just a lot of information that not only Golf Safety provided, but what we could find from the CDC and anybody else, and then making sure our staff understood what those were,” he says.

Language can also be a potential barrier to communication during times like these, but there are steps you can take to help overcome this. Being based in California - a state with a particularly large Hispanic population - this is a challenge Gracie knows well. “Communication is key,” says Gracie, “Having an assistant superintendent or somebody on the staff that can help communicate to you, to make sure everybody understands, is probably the most vital part of the operation on the communication side.” Another helpful solution is to use training resources in multiple languages. Golf Safety offers posters, videos and other resources in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

Person inside a golf course shop putting on a face mask to prevent germs

Collective Responsibility

At Redlands Country Club, Gracie encourages collective responsibility during times of illness. If crew members are feeling unwell, they are always encouraged to stay home rather than come to work at the risk of their own health and the health of their crewmates.

“We wanted to make sure everybody understood it was okay not to be here versus coming in not feeling 100%,” Gracie says, “for the betterment of the whole crew.” Preventing the spread and risk of illness require a collective effort from every crew member, and it’s the job of the superintendent to ensure that everyone is on the same page during these times.

“At the end of the day,” Gracie emphasizes, “when you work closely with 15 to 20 other people, it's important that people are trying to do their best to keep everybody else healthy.”

Seasonal illnesses in a workplace are unavoidable, but by encouraging preventive measures, communication and collective responsibility, you can greatly reduce the risks to your crew. By implementing safety training and continuously emphasizing the importance of staying vigilant, you can do your best to keep your crew healthy year-round and your course functioning smoothly.

“We talk a lot about it,” Gracie says on the topic of encouraging health and wellness among his crew. “We talk a lot about eating right and drinking right and doing the right things for our bodies.” To ensure that you’re putting the necessary safety strategies in place and training your crew appropriately, it’s essential to communicate with them regularly and emphasize the importance of collective responsibility. Use Golf Safety’s range of training videos to keep your crew safe and help prevent the spread of contagious illness on your course today!