CTSP Spurs New Ideas for Angus Barnhart-Usedom

During a line-clearance training session for a group of community-college students last winter, trainer Angus Barnhart-Usedom encountered a student wary of chain saws.

Angus Barnhart-Usedom

“I realized I had to switch up my teaching style for a timid person. You sometimes come across someone for whom you need to adjust to accommodate their style of learning. They focused on that in the CTSP certification,” says Barnhart-Usedom, training and safety supervisor with Mowbray’s Tree Service, a 23-year TCIA member company located in San Bernardino, California.

He says one of the scariest things in this line of work is putting a chain saw in the hands of someone who has never used one before, so the stakes can be high for getting the right approach.

The Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential aims to teach arborists how to help promote a culture of safety back at their work places.

“When I heard about the CTSP program, in my mind, it was going to be more tree related than it was. It surprised me to find out it involved a lot more adult learning. It plays into a lot of my training. Even though I preach, ‘Don’t become complacent,’ I realized I had become complacent,” he confesses.

“Maybe there are folks who are just nodding and agreeing but not actually getting the info. Now, be it a language barrier or not having the field experience, it’s in the forefront of my mind to circle back and involve them,” says Barnhart-Usedom. Recently, in a five-to-one training session, he demonstrated a rigging setup on day one, then made sure to come back to it a few days later to see if his students had retained the information.

After a year-and-a-half on the job as a lead safety trainer at Mowbray’s, he adds, “It was, at first, very difficult to show up on a job site and not appear to be an authority figure. You really gain respect just by dragging brush. You don’t just make your report and get in your truck and leave. If you help the crew out, to save them time and energy, it helps to build that trust and relationship.

One of the scariest things in this line of work is putting a chain saw in the hands of someone who has never used one, says Barnhart-Usedom. Photos courtesy of Angus Barnhart-Usedom.

“It went from ‘Oh no, safety’s here,’ to coming up to me and asking questions,” he says appreciatively.

“I like to say there are enough trees for everyone to be a climber,” he says. He notes that the kind of training CTSP models is useful for the industry overall. Building up ground crews to be climbers enables them to pass on the skills of tree climbing to their own ground workers.

“If we don’t build new climbers, then all the climbers die with this generation. You need people absorbing that knowledge and moving up,” he notes.

After taking part in an online CTSP workshop exclusively for Mowbray employees, Barnhart-Usedom has just one piece of constructive input.

“It was a course just for Mowbray’s, so we were able to goof around a bit and make it fun, but I could see how you could zone out online. It was fine, but for someone who has a different attention span, a little more interaction could probably benefit that person,” he says.

For information about the CTSP credential, and for a schedule of both in-person and virtual workshops, Click here.

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