Ryan Ealy, CTSP, has been a utility consultant for several large U.S. companies. As such, he has found becoming a TCIA Qualified Trainer – one of the first to do so – and using TCIA’s online Electrical Hazards Awareness Program (EHAP) training course a good match for both safety training and tree workers’ schedules.
“TCIA seems to be taking the training in the direction where people can learn at their own pace, and I like the direction it is going in. A lot of workers have busy lives, with work and home obligations – even a side business. It’s important for people to be able to take the classes in bits and pieces.”
For busy arborists, online courses are a way to maximize the time they have to learn what they need to learn, says Ealy. For employers, the benefit is not having to shut down operations for an all-day training session. “The TCIA courses allow companies to better utilize field downtime. Company tablets can be used for training in the field during rain or other unforeseen delays,” Ealy says.
Upon completion of the six-hour EHAP online course, trainees receive an EHAP Certificate of Completion. This is not the same as being EHAP certified, an industry-wide credential required for performing tree work around high-voltage power lines. The EHAP credential has additional requirements, including hands-on training and annual renewal. “Some people just want to get a better understanding of how utilities work and their dangers” says Ealy, and that is what earning the Certificate of Completion does.
In addition to TCIA training, Ealy, based in Eldon, Missouri, does contract training, mainly for utilities.
As a safety specialist with Atlas Field Services, a five-year TCIA member company based in Houston, Texas, he oversaw safety efforts for Pacific Gas & Electric’s enhanced-vegetation-management (EVM) and routine-maintenance program in Lake and Mendocino counties in California.
He was the tree-division manager for a year with Prestonwood Landscape Services, a first-year TCIA member company based in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area. “When hired, it was my job to bring operations in-house, as they were subcontracting all tree work at that time,” says Ealy.
He also worked with Phillips and Jordan, a 15-year TCIA corporate member company based in Knoxville, Tennessee, on American Electric Power’s (AEP) hazard-tree-removal program in Ohio. “I provided operational management to manual and mechanical felling crews,” says Ealy.
In these situations, he tries not to over-manage safety oversight. “I don’t like to play the gotcha game. I’m just there as a knowledge base, to be available and work with the crews and build the safety culture that the Tree Care Industry Association teaches CTSPs to foster, so everyone believes in it,” says Ealy.
Ealy earned TCIA’s Certified Tree Care Professional (CTSP) credential a couple of years ago. “I’m always trying to learn the next thing in this industry. It’s not so much about the credential, but the course content attached to it. Plus, I always like to feel I’m doing things above my head, such as the Qualified Trainer credential. I like to be uncomfortable in my work, so it feels like growth,” he says.
For ease of use, Ealy is a fan of the Brightspace online learning platform TCIA uses. “I like that it’s not linear. It’s a lot of course to go through, but if you understand components of electricity, wattage and ohms, you can bypass a chapter or two. You pick and choose what areas you need to learn.”
Ultimately, he says, his favorite part of this job is the people. “It’s amazing how people advance in this industry. If you don’t continually educate yourself, you are lost. It’s fun to see how inventive people can be. The industry is changing constantly. I like watching crewmembers work and seeing what they come up with,” Ealy says.
TCIA currently is offering free half- and full-day virtual workshops on EHAP, Ground Operations and Aerial Lift Operations, all funded through an OSHA Susan Harwood Grant.