Successful landscapes require:
- Proper grading, drainage and amended soil.
- An automatic irrigation system achieving 100% head to head coverage.
- Properly installed, high quality plant material.
Each of these functions may require a specific type component, installed at a specific height or location to reduce the potential of creating a site hazard that may result in an accident. In commercial applications, landscape plans usually include details and specifications dictating type of product and how it should be installed.
Many common landscape products may be improperly installed including:
- Pop up heads may be incorrectly set to grade against a sidewalk.
- Valve or drainage boxes set too high or low relative to finish grade.
- Shrub head installed on a riser adjacent to concrete improvement.
- Hidden, obscured depressions in grade due to substandard compaction, settlement and subsidence.
Improper product selection or substandard installation practices may appear obvious. A pop up sprinkler head set above the top of adjacent concrete sidewalk creates a trip hazard. A drainage structure set well below the turf grade creates a trip slip and fall hazard. Selecting and installing a spray head on a rigid riser next to a pedestrian sidewalk is a sub-standard industry practice that creates a trip and fall hazard.
Not all landscape hazards are visible. Turf areas may have grade depressions or holes that are hidden by overgrown turf grass. Depending on the cause and time period, turf grass may completely hide the depth, location and size of the depression or hole, creating a hidden hazard.
A depression, rut or hole may result from several factors. Repeated mowing on saturated turf may create ruts. Overwatering may cause irrigation or utility trench settlement. A dead tree removed from a turf area may result in a future depression if the grade is not properly backfilled and compacted.
Bermuda grass is a fast horizontal spreading turf-grass used in parks and recreation facilities throughout the country. Unless regularly aerated and de-thatched, Bermuda grass in known to grow a thick layer of thatch. Over time, the thatch layer can increase the turf grade several inches above adjacent sidewalk and curbs.
The backfill in utility trenches installed across pre-existing turf may settle, creating a depression in the sub-grade. The photo depicts the edge of a trench cut across an asphalt driveway, across a turf area. The trench backfill eventually settled, creating a trench sub-grade depression hidden by the Bermuda grass.
The depression resulted in a trip and fall accident. After the accident, several hidden turf depressions were “sanded” to fill depressions to proper grade.
Not all landscape hazards are open and obvious. Even a perfectly installed landscape may develop hazardous conditions if not regularly inspected and maintained.
Irrigation systems should be monitored, inspected, tested and adjusted monthly. Turf should be trimmed around utility boxes and vaults regularly, aerated and de-thatched annually to maintain optimum performance and minimize grade changes. Drainage structures should be grade adjusted, repaired or replaced when damaged. Valve, electrical and junction boxes should be monitored for grade changes and adjusted as required. Bark mulch thickness should be monitored and supplemented annually to maintain proper coverage and grade.
In summary, a properly installed landscape is composed of several systems and components that require regular ongoing maintenance for optimum performance, efficiency and safety. Pro-active landscape maintenance may reduce potential hazards, resultant accidents and lawsuits. These actions demonstrates an Owner’s recognition of protecting the health and safety of the public, pedestrians, friends and family who may visit and use the site and may prove useful in a legal action.