At Cumberland Valley Tree Service – Landscaping, the position of safety director was once a part-time role, paired with being a full-time crew leader. That was when this accredited, 22-year TCIA member company based in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, was a small operation. No more. With more than 90 employees, the position is now full time.
Taking on that job is Aaron Feather, a Penn State Mont Alto graduate with an associate degree in forest technology. Shortly after graduation he joined Cumberland, and for 16 years has worked his way up from ground worker to climber to crew leader and now safety and training director. His longevity with the company, he says, is thanks in great part to having an “excellent management team.”
Also helping has been his Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential, which he gained about a decade ago. CTSP is a credential TCIA offers for arborists to learn how to help promote a culture of safety back at their workplaces.
“It’s a great program. You definitely get out of it what you put in,” says Feather. “Because the required continuing education unit (CEU) credits to maintain the credential encompass receiving education, giving training and developing your safety program, it forces you to create opportunities.
“The credits don’t just come from going to a workshop. If you are looking to grow in the realm of safety culture, it’s a great way to start,” says Feather, adding, “and it also keeps you accountable and up to date.”
Feather says he would like to see the CTSP program take it a step further and expand to target different levels of training and education, depending on a company’s number of employees.
“I could have 10 times the credits required with little effort,” he says, because he is able to focus full time on developing and documenting programs, something a safety director in a smaller company might not have as much time for.
“In Pennsylvania, I register our safety committee through the state and we get a 5% discount on our workers’ comp insurance premium, a huge savings given the approximately $250,000 we spend annually on workers’ comp,” he says.
Another benefit has been Feather’s ability to qualify to be a CTSP instructor, which improves his skills in speaking and training, an interest of his and something he sees as helping his career.
Although Feather took the course a decade ago, one lesson has stuck. “When you are instructing someone, the process is to demonstrate once, demonstrate twice, have the trainee demonstrate to you, observe and correct if needed. The repetitive process of training is very valuable,” he says.
Another evolving lesson is how to deal with other adults who have already been trained in a certain way, and also with older workers, knowing how to “re-train and integrate them into the safety culture of the company.” Feather notes that when he started with Cumberland, he was working with 40-somethings who had more years’ experience in tree work than he’d even been alive.
“Anyone will have a problem with the age and experience gap,” he says.
To learn more about the CTSP credential, click here.
Aaron Feather will present an interactive session titled “Knots You Should Know” at TCI EXPO ’21 in Indianapolis this November.