Joe Tommasi Awarded Emeritus Status for CTSP Credential

Joe Tommasi, CTSP left, speaks with Peter Gerstenberger
Joe Tommasi, left, speaks with Peter Gerstenberger, today TCIA’s vice president for industry expertise, during a TCI EXPO sometime in the 1990s. Tommasi has presented on safety topics at TCI EXPO more than once. Note the National Arborist Association logo on Gerstenberger’s jacket. The name was changed to the Tree Care Industry Association in 2003. TCIA file photo.

Joseph Tommasi was one of the first tree workers to enroll in the Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) program when TCIA first offered the credential in 2006.

“It got my curiosity,” Tommasi says to explain why he originally pursued the credential. “And there’s something to say for TCIA, and before that when it was the National Arborist Association (NAA), that it is always engaged in one fashion or another in employee education and training activities,” he says, so he knew it would be valuable.

He continued to renew his certification for the next 15 years. Tommasi retired two years ago. His last position was vice president for corporate safety for The Davey Tree Expert Company, an accredited, 50-year TCIA member company based in Kent, Ohio.

When he received his CTSP renewal notice recently, he wondered if he could keep the credential. That inquiry ultimately led TCIA to award him emeritus status, a new designation to honor long-term and retired CTSPs.

Joe Tommasi
Joe Tommasi

“Joe is one of the first few people who jumped into the program in 2006 and earned his CTSP certification the same year,” says Irina Kochurov, director of credentialing programs for TCIA. “Since then, he has been a very dedicated and professional CTSP who stayed on top of his certification requirements and followed the policies. It was always pleasant working with him, and we appreciate his being a great CTSP for 17 years!”

Why the CTSP credential is important

The CTSP credential is intended to help arborists and company owners develop and nurture a safe work environment at their companies. While retired from active employment, Tommasi stays engaged and continues to submit TCIA course-activity records. Some of those records have been related to his guest participation in the current revision of the ANSI Z133 safety standard.

“Joe is a model of what a CTSP should be,” says Peter Gerstenberger, TCIA’s vice president for industry expertise. “Not only did he apply what he learned to foster a culture of safety at his company, but he also served on the Z133 committee, helping improve safety in the industry at large.”

Starting at the bottom

Tommasi worked in the field for 10 years, starting as a trainee, becoming a line-clearance arborist and then as a crew leader before spending 40-plus years in safety management. He started in 1972 on a line-clearance crew with Tree Preservation Company of Briarcliff Manor, New York. He left the field in 1982 to become safety manager for Tree Preservation Company. In 1994, Tommasi joined Davey, where he would spend the rest of his career.


“The first field trip I was involved in as safety manager, sponsoring a group of crew leaders for educational purposes, was in 1982, when the then National Arborist Association had sponsored a full-day program on crew-leadership responsibilities, led by NAA arborist Mark Tobin. It was well done,” he says, and adds that that contributed toward his continuing to expand his and other employees’ safety education.

Seeing value in CTSP

The CTSP credential was an opportunity.

“I thought there was value in it for me and the organization, to enhance the message that we share to the betterment of our fellow employees,” Tommasi says, adding, “If you are going to do it, if you renew the first time, you are likely to keep going. It was a personal commitment to stay engaged.”

“It was important to reach out to other forms of safety education… This enabled me to interact with people who have similar safety roles but in other lines of work, such as through the National Safety Council, the Incident Prevention Institute and the American Society of Safety Professionals. If I saw an opportunity to take on added professional development to share with our people, I would do it.”

He valued how CTSP was geared to both individuals and companies. “My take on it is that it furthers the ability of people to get the safety message across in their organization, as well as provides the fundamental requirements of the Z133 and other industry safe-work practices. The Z133 also is geared to people as adult learners, teaching how to facilitate interaction in the field and take ownership of safety in leading crews or larger groups of employees. It teaches the value of personal interaction in helping adults with self-improvement, and doesn’t solely teach the nitty-gritty safety fundamentals.”

Keeping up with CEUs

It was easy to keep up with the CEUs, as there was always opportunity in one form or another to take part in or lead a safety program that helped him keep his certification current, he notes. But he also pursued safety credentials elsewhere.

“It was important to reach out to other forms of safety education both inside our industry, such as with the ISA and the Utility Arborist Association (UAA), and outside our industry. This enabled me to interact with people who have similar safety roles but in other lines of work, such as through the National Safety Council, the Incident Prevention Institute and the American Society of Safety Professionals. If I saw an opportunity to take on added professional development to share with our people, I would do it.”

Looking ahead

Tommasi sees a role for CTSP to continue to improve and be helpful for tree care workers. “Years ago, if you looked at messaging in trade journals or advertising, you did not see the same level of consistency of messages on safety that you see today and over the past decade or two. Safe work performance is so integral to the well-being of the industry itself, and its people.

“Maybe that is one of the key challenges, to continue to try to elevate the professionalism in the industry,” he says. “You can’t do that just by using the most expensive saddle or climbing line. It’s about how you value and develop yourself and your co-workers and the people you are serving. More and more people are seeing this industry – and within it, perhaps, safety management – as a career path. For those who enjoy being and working outdoors with others, and contributing toward improving the environment, it’s a great opportunity to do good things, such as how you can bring along a person in your crew to give them a foundation as a safety-minded, professional craftsperson.”

Internally at Davey, Tommasi notes, the company had all the field safety staff earn the CTSP credential, then the staff in operations gained interest. It snowballed from there to CTSP certifications for employees in different areas of operations, in various parts of the country and at different levels.
“As an industry, it has become that much more of a norm for companies trying to enhance their professionalism, with a focus on safety, via CTSP,” he notes.


Tommasi says one thing he took away from the CTSP training was something he observed in other participants.

“I could see, through the engagement with the instructors and peers, eyes opening up and internal clicks for what they were going to do differently. Some came in not having a lot of formal safety-
leadership experience. They left the program with greater knowledge, peer connections, initiatives to share and motivation to accomplish them,” he says.

The program connected with people, he says, and helped support leading indicators like the job-observation-and-feedback process, peer review and engagement with people in the field. It created opportunities for people to lead in constructive safety meetings, to develop other people and truly carry the message forward. “This was the right way to travel to develop their safety culture,” Tommasi says.

As to how the CTSP program might be improved, Tommasi says he’d like to see the program find a way to help long-time CTSPs stay engaged. “Is there something that can be developed that can enhance the group that has been at it for five to 10 years or more, that could help them become a senior CTSP? Maybe build something around that so it keeps them fresh and challenged and also enhances the credential itself.”

A retired Joe Tommasi, CTSP emeritus
A retired Joe Tommasi, CTSP emeritus, with a spring steelhead trout caught in a tributary of Lake Erie. Are those safety glasses? “Shades for water glare reduction and eye protection from errant hooks.” Photo courtesy of Joe Tommasi.

Gone fishing

Looking back over his lengthy career in the tree industry, Tommasi says, “I had an opportunity to make a difference on a wonderful career path. I got to prune a lot of white oak trees (his favorite tree) and work with so many wonderful people. And I am proud of the craft I developed in the field, but also in safety management.

“I got to collaborate with people all across our operations and try to help them help themselves be better than they were the day before,” he says. “I was committed to that safety mission, and CTSP was part of it.”
As far as calling him for safety advice, you may have to leave a message, he says. Now that he is retired, Tommasi, who lives in Stow, Ohio, could well be out trout fishing on the nearby or distant waters.

For more information on the CTSP credential and upcoming workshops, go to and, in the pull-down menu at top right, select Education/CEUs, then click on CTSP & Qualifications. Or, in the digital version of this issue, click here (Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) – Tree Care Industry Association, LLC).

Tamsin Venn is founding publisher of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker magazine and author of the book “Sea Kayaking Along the New England Coast,” and has been a contributing writer to TCI Magazine since 2011. She lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

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