Evolution of Safety in Arboriculture

In my five years working as a field arborist at Bartlett Tree Experts, I have experienced notable and positive changes in arboriculture safety in the Company and in the industry. I have learned to hold the belief that staying current in safety issues and topics every day of the week is an expectation of all employees.

When I first started as a new employee in May 2010, safety meetings were conducted twice a week. Today, we hold safety meetings every day of the week with a different person speaking each week and sometimes daily. There is an emphasis for everyone at the meeting to contribute to the safety topic discussion to help facilitate engagement. Safety meetings are not just lectures. They are interactive – often with hands-on and outside activities.

Last year, each Bartlett office throughout the company established a local office safety coordinator position. This individual helps orchestrate the safety program in the local office through facilitating good discussions on safety topics, helping with safety and training, and ensuring company safety policies are followed with direction from the Division Safety and Training Coordinator. Employees serving as local office safety coordinators must have a thorough understanding of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300 Standards for Tree Care Operations and ANSI Z133 Safety Standard for Arboriculture Operations. By placing a safety leader in each office, Bartlett can even further develop its already strong culture of safety.

When I started at Bartlett, there was not much information available about the Certified Tree Care Safety Professional, a certification administered through the Tree Care Industry Association starting in 2006. This certification is the only safety credentialing program in the industry and emphasizes training, coaching, and adult learning techniques for safe work practices. Today, there is an increased awareness and discussion of this certification in local Bartlett offices. In our Northern Virginia offices, for example, the local office safety coordinators and other rising field arborists are encouraged to obtain this certification.

In 2011, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (MAC-ISA) held their first ever Day of Safety. Each year, the event gives different field demonstrations on arboriculture safety topics. It’s a great event that brings the industry together to discuss accidents, increase awareness of safety in arboriculture operations, and network with others in the industry. Having attended three of the five MAC-ISA Safety events, I have greatly increased my safety knowledge and have met some cool people along the way. Like this year, I got to hear International Tree Climbing Champion James Earhart give a talk on climbing safety!

These activities and events have played a significant role in shaping my personal safety culture and attitude. When working on the front lines in arboriculture day in and day out, it’s important to be knowledgeable and educated on safe work practices. Being 60 feet up a tree, 20 feet out on a limb, using a chainsaw to make a pruning cut requires specialized training. The best thing you can do is take advantage of all the resources your company and the industry have made available to work safely.

“Climb high, rig right, cut small, work safe!”
Rob Springer, Piedmont Division Safety and Training Coordinator

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