As a senior corporate safety trainer at Asplundh Tree Expert, LLC – which, along with its subsidiaries, employs about 33,000 people throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand and is home to thousands of pieces of equipment – part of Ray Apking’s job is to support the company’s roughly 195 regional safety personnel. Additionally, he works with new and experienced tree-industry workers to develop and enhance their skills, safety knowledge and experience.
In pursuing TCIA’s Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential, Apking says, “One of the things I found very helpful was the adult-learning aspect of it. Almost everyone I come across says they were taught by someone who was taught by someone else and so on.”
In this evolving industry, Apking notes that the technology and safety measures have accelerated in the past decade to now include a multitude of new techniques and equipment. However, it is his primary focus to ensure trainers are up to date on all these new procedures and equipment, in order for Asplundh to enable a safe and efficient working environment for tree workers on a daily basis.
“They [the safety trainers] already know these skills and have typically been in the industry for a long time. They have felled and climbed trees, done rigging and so on. But it’s important that they are also teaching these skills correctly, even though they may have done it slightly different in the past. Sometimes I have to adjust their techniques a little bit so we are all uniform. I don’t want to frustrate them, but I do have to tell them the aspects they need to work on. You won’t solve old habits in one day, and it takes time to get everyone on the same page,” says Apking, who started with Asplundh in 1999 and has been in the tree care industry since 1989. Asplundh, a 45-year TCIA member company headquartered in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, primarily provides vegetation-
management services to a wide range of utilities and municipalities.
Enter CTSP training, which teaches a tree care worker to be a safety “coach” and to develop and nurture a safe work environment at their company. These techniques have helped Apking get his trainees to understand new tree care techniques in all areas, including climbing, tree felling, rigging, driving management and Asplund’s TapRoot investigation.
Apking also has gotten better at reading visual cues of the as many as 10 workers he is training at a time.
“I’m watching them to see if they understand what I’m saying. I am thinking about the next step, but at the same time I’m trying to evaluate the crowd to see where they are at – looking for blank stares of confusion or someone distracted in the back row. You have to figure out how to get them motivated to learn, and the CTSP training helps out with that,” he says.
Apking pursued the credential several years ago because his boss at the time, who had earned the certification, suggested he go through it. “It’s now seen as an industry standard, and I was lucky enough to receive the certification when the program was starting,” he says.
“This certification program makes you stay on top of your game and pushes you to keep getting better at everything, because of the recertification processes and requirements. In a professional world, you tend to get situated and feel comfortable with it, but the CTSP credential pushes you to continuously learn,” he says.
For information about becoming a CTSP and upcoming training opportunities, visit tcia.org and click the Safety tab. TCIA is now offering virtual training online for the CTSP credential.