“When you get hurt doing tree work, there are no paper cuts out there, it really hurts; the industry lives up to its reputation (of being dangerous),” says Michael Roche, owner of Vermont Arborists, an accredited, 26-year TCIA member company based in Waterbury Center, Vermont. He cites potential hospitalization and chiropractor visits. “People are willing to work hard, but they don’t want to get hurt.”
He adds, “They want to know they are appreciated and in a safe work environment. Even though it’s a very dangerous industry, the chances of getting hurt working for our company are significantly less than at any other tree service in this area.”
Roche attributes that low risk to a safety culture he has created at his company, with the help of TCIA’s Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) program. The program aims to help tree workers develop and nurture a safe work environment at their companies by focusing on four key areas: leadership, hazard identification, incident control and prevention and adult learning.
Roche and two of his staff hold the CTSP credential, and being TCIA accredited helps as well.
“It has helped my company function at a higher level because of myself and the other CTSPs on staff, so it’s more profitable,” says Roche. “By having all that, you keep competent people, you don’t have the turnover and it lessens my stress level considerably.”
Roche earned his credential about a dozen years ago, but leaves safety training to the more experienced crew members to keep the program peer related, not boss driven.
However, Roche still offers tips. For example, his workers prefer to work a variety of jobs, which he encourages, to keep the work interesting. When they need to access a tree by crane ball, four different people might ride the ball in the course of a day.
He recently instituted a new policy; before a worker goes up on the crane ball for their first time, another experienced climber checks the rope and hook while the employee is still on the ground, to make sure the employee hasn’t forgotten anything.
“It’s not an ANSI or OSHA standard – it’s something I thought of. With so many different crew members going up, I want their work checked before they go up in the air.”
As opposed to the new policy being annoying, “The crews appreciate it, because they know I am looking out for their welfare,” he says.
Roche does have a few ideas as to how he would like to see the CTSP program evolve. He is not a fan of the setup for CEU requirements, which he thinks are too arduous to complete. Also, he feels some disconnect exists between the course material and the test. He is quick to add, though, that he in no way supports lessening standards for tree workers.
But don’t ask Roche to be on a committee to look into it – he’s too busy. Because of loyal employees, he does not have a hiring problem, Roche says, and he is now booked out to winter. That is, he adds, thanks in many ways to the CTSP credential and the safety protocols it engenders at his company.
To learn more about the CTSP credential, visit tcia.org/ctsp.