David Vega, safety training specialist at Arborwell – an accredited, 24-year TCIA member company headquartered in Hayward, California – is in charge of all the company’s formalized field training. That means Vega is the instructor, mentor and coach for the company’s 200 employees across all of Arborwell’s regions, stretching from San Diego to Seattle.
He trains the employees from the ground up, from the “never-evers” (tree workers completely new to the profession) to those who have reached crew leader within three years.
“We build from within, and that has a better result for retention and culture. Instead of correcting bad habits, we’re creating good ones,” says Vega, who has been with Arborwell for 15 years and is based in the East Bay Region, around San Francisco.
Twelve years ago, as a crew leader, he went through TCIA’s Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) program. The program aims to provide a well-rounded education in safety concepts, plus the tools for those who earn the credential to communicate those concepts effectively to tree workers back at their companies.
“I earned my CTSP because it was the thing to do, and it was one more certification I could put under my belt. I didn’t realize how useful it was until five years after I had it. Now I see the path it opened for me,” he says. “After I got my CTSP, the company started giving me responsibility for training new employees. As the company grew and there came to be a need for such a position, it was a natural to just put me in that position in an official capacity. So the CTSP (credential) opened up so much more.
“One of the things I like about the CTSP training is that the information is broad. It has the basics in there, such as using two hands on a chain saw, and all these things are great. But from my perspective, I have to take that and interpret that to the employee to make their job safer and more efficient. Now I get the chance to meet other trainers and see how they are training, teaching and overcoming similar obstacles we are facing.”
As an example, Vega says he attended a training program for rigging that involved a vertical speed line. “I knew about it and how to do it myself, but I hadn’t been able to express the technique’s value to the employee. Going through this program, I was able to see someone else teach it in a way that made more sense for how useful it was, than the way I was teaching it. The result is, you get more buy-in. Unless you get buy-in, there’s no action.”
How would Vega like to see the CTSP program evolve?
“The more we share our experiences and why we do things the way we do with others, the better we all get. The tree industry is still not considered a trade. The more standardized we get and share info with each other, the more we bring the respect the industry deserves across the board for everybody.”
For information about the CTSP credential, visit tcia.org and, under the Safety tab, click CTSP.