“We’re trying to establish that this is a safety industry doing tree work, rather than a tree industry doing safety work,” Karen Tull says of her work as a vegetation-management inspector with Gulf Interstate Field Services in northern and central California. “That verbiage really helps,” she says, with the contract crews she oversees providing line clearance for utility lines.
“We are looking at safety first and foremost, looking at all aspects of the work stream. We’re not their friends, but we’re not the police, either. We are the contact for them – we can find the answers – and keep them moving along efficiently. But mainly we’re there to keep them coming home safely to their families every night,” she says.
One tool that has helped Tull is TCIA’s Certified Treecare Safety Professional training. CTSP is a TCIA credential that teaches a tree worker to be a safety “coach” and to develop and nurture a safe work environment back at his or her company.
“Earning the CTSP (credential) was a requirement for this position, but I had planned to go after the certification anyway,” she says, noting its value for learning how to engage people and how to deal with different ages and personalities. She completed the program during a virtual workshop in November 2020.
“Everyone is different, and everyone receives knowledge and skills differently. It really helped with my ability to approach different personalities. Some people are hands on, some like to read material. It gave me the tools to deal with that and to ask, ‘What is the best scenario for this person to embrace safety?’” she says of her work with the six crews she oversees.
“One thing that really resonated is the different ways to get people engaged, by asking open-ended questions and having the workers elaborate on the material we are giving them, so someone has to respond with more detail on the question. When they have to explain and go into details and initiate a conversation about what you are trying to deliver, it is a learning tool for them. It resonates better,” she says.
Tull is not new to the tree industry. She grew up in the Willamette National Forest in Oregon. Her father worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 32 years, from tree planter to district manager. She was a wildland firefighter in her twenties in Oregon and California, where she did vegetation clearance and structure protection and worked the fire line. Then she worked for six years for a tree company that did brush removal and defensible-space, service-line and communication-line clearances.
“The vegetation-management workstream is a big asset to keeping fires at bay and managing this vegetation,” she says. “It’s going to be a huge impact for California.”
Tull learned of the CTSP certification through other field people who spread the word, then got a lot of help in navigating the process, she says, from Irina Kochurov, TCIA’s manager of credentialing programs.
Next up, Tull says, is working on earning TCIA’s Electrical Hazards Awareness Program (EHAP) and ISA’s Certified Arborist credentials. “The more ‘certed up’ you are, the more you bring to the table, which is a good thing,” she says.
Click here for information about the CTSP credential.