Nick Peterson was one of the first persons to earn the Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential, a certification TCIA launched in 2008 to help arborists nurture a culture of safety at their companies. He has maintained the credential for 15 years.
“Two reasons I always kept the certification was because I was in that first class and Dave Scharfenberger encouraged me to do it. I didn’t want to let him down,” says Peterson. Scharfenberger is senior consultant and one of the owners of Wachtel Tree Science, Inc., an accredited, 31-year TCIA member company based in Merton, Wisconsin, where Peterson worked for six years.
Now as a forestry supervisor for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department for the city of Green Bay, Wisc., Peterson notes, “I was always just on the crew. Last year I switched to a supervisory role. Renewing my CTSP credential every three years and earning those CEUs kept me accountable to do staff training.” Peterson also worked with the department’s Safety Committee, which COVID-19 put on hold.
Peterson points out, “With the city, because you are not production oriented, not relying on making bids, it’s easy to fall into the day-to-day routine, not push yourself. The CTSP helped me expand my abilities to do the chain-saw training, schedule and administer harness inspections, do ladder inspections, simple things like that. It’s an accountability thing.
“Trees are my first passion and safety second, and they go hand in hand for sure,” he says.
One safety lesson from the CTSP course that stuck with him was the pyramid concept – near misses equal minor injuries, minor injuries lead to greater injuries.
“I take a step back and get on a soap box and remind them that all of these little things add up,” he says of his crew.
The way one treats people is also key, he says. The safety culture he worked in about a dozen years ago was led by older guys who were pretty gruff and dismissive of learning efforts, with a figure-it-out-for-yourself approach. The wearing of hard hats, safety chaps and safety vests was sporadic. Putting your bright-orange helmet on was definitely making a statement, and Peterson was going to wear that hard hat, he notes. All the arborists did transition into wearing safety gear, and many have thanked him for helping to lead the way.
Another concept he shares with the crews covers the direct and indirect causes of an accident. When someone does break something, they talk about the direct or root cause and the indirect cause. “The direct is that you hit the object. The indirect cause is that you were rushing to get home. It gives crews a different perspective on how to look at the accident. Maybe you did something wrong, but let’s talk about it and learn from it.”
Click here to learn more about the CTSP credential.