Prior to transitioning to the tree care industry, I was a compliance analyst. My mind naturally gravitates to risk, controls and, ultimately, keeping our team members and business safe. We take pride in not having any lost-time injuries. But, in an effort at full transparency, not too long ago we added a litigation chapter to our book.
It’s a long story, but the short version is, one day in July 2019 all the lights at a very busy, five-lane intersection were completely out. After much confusion among all the drivers approaching the intersection, one of our trucks was involved in a collision. Our leadership team rushed to the scene, where everyone was shaking hands and thankful to be alright. Our long-time employee felt terrible but had a story to tell, as this situation was not cut and dry.
Seven days later we received a letter in the mail informing us that the other party hired the biggest personal-injury attorney around and wanted $1 million to cover this situation. My heart sank! We were fully insured, but this is what I wake up every day trying to avoid. I felt I had failed our company and the team.
The litigation process was grueling! It seemed as if they were throwing all sorts of accusations at us to see what would stick.
Let me say, from time to time, we get feedback that the daily safety requirements we have in place can feel monotonous. But they are important, and we take them seriously. Production may drive the revenue, but if you don’t have sound operations, it just takes once for it all to go away.
The other party’s lawyers were demanding all sorts of documents, and we were able to produce a stack of paperwork, from JHAs (job hazard analysis forms), DVIRs (driver vehicle inspection reports), certifications and completed trainings.
Looking back on it now, I can say we grew from this experience, and that the value TCIA’s Accreditation program added was clear. Just six months prior to this situation, we had become an accredited company. The entire process shifted our company culture, and those who didn’t want to comply didn’t stay on the team.
It has been said many times, “It’s not if, it’s when.” It can be hard to think about, but it’s often true.
If you have been putting off pursuing TCIA Accreditation, you may want to power through it. We are sure glad we did. My hope in being this vulnerable is to shed light on an experience we had for other small tree care company owners who may think it will never happen to them. TCIA is there for you as a trusted resource, and I promise it is worth every single penny.
Amy Burkett is co-owner, along with her husband, Tyler Burkett, CTSP, of Burkett Arbor Care LLC, an accredited, eight-year TCIA member company based in Boerne, Texas. She also is a member of the TCIA Board of Directors.