As manager of operations for Minnesota Valley Tree Service, a 27-year TCIA member company based in Granite Falls, Minnesota, Jarrod Schiltz oversees three crews in the high-stakes business of line clearance, a job he has held for almost 17 years.
“I’m big on safety, and when people see that I take safety seriously, I think it helps me get work. Power companies like the safety aspect,” he says, particularly where insurance plays into it.
Minnesota Valley Tree Service is a subsidiary of Minnesota Valley Light and Power, but has to bid for work from the parent company as well as for work it does for other power companies. It also does other residential and commercial tree work.
Compliance is always a challenge, Schiltz says, “like getting the crews to do all the basics, wear chaps when cutting on the ground, doing what they need to do as tree trimmers.”
The attitude is that they are only going to cut this one tree, they want to get the job done and that extra couple of minutes to put on a pair of chaps “is more than they want to do,” he says.
Schiltz has found the lessons learned in TCIA’s Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) training helpful in safety enforcement. He saw the value early on and earned his credential 10 years ago. Now he is one of 2,500-plus tree workers to earn the CTSP credential in the 15 years since the program started.
TCIA’s CTSP credentialing program trains tree workers in a variety of skills useful in teaching other workers, with the goal of helping create and promote a culture of safety at their workplaces. CTSP is the only safety-credentialing program in the industry designed to address several challenges that tree care companies face, Schiltz says.
To reinforce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), Schiltz has a strategy. If he catches one of his arborists without chaps or safety glasses, or “if they do something that is way out of protocol or that jeopardizes their safety or the safety of their crew,” he writes them up, says Schiltz. “Anything that would violate safety protocol is a writable offense.
“I have had a couple of crew members come back and say they understand why they were written up. If they are long term, and quite a few have been with me for years, it only takes the one writeup and they’re compliant. If they get three, they get time off without pay. Nobody wants that. If it’s too many in a row, it’s more of a problem, and I won’t hang on to them.”
As someone who’s big on communication, he found the CTSP training “helped me enforce the writeup program by being able to better explain to my workers how important safety is.”
Also, “When you read in TCI Magazine that this is what other people are doing, you don’t feel like you’re the only one out there” being the bad guy.
When we caught up with Schiltz, he was out preparing bids for Minnesota Valley Light and Power. Schiltz helps manage 3,000 miles of overhead power line on a five-year rotation. The wind-chill factor that day was 35 below zero, and he had given his crews the day off. Another safety footnote – he works his crews 10 hours a day, four days a week, so they have a full three days to rest and recuperate.
“TCIA runs a good program,” he says of CTSP. “More people understand the importance of safety training and how much it can help.”
Click here to learn more about the CTSP credential.