John Talkington’s career as an engineer has involved much safety training, so he was naturally drawn to TCIA’s Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) program. The program helps tree care managers develop skills they can use as safety “coaches” for their crews, and helps them create and foster a safe work environment. Talkington’s motivation for earning the credential was pretty straightforward.
“I don’t want any of my employees injured,” says Talkington, president and owner of Monster Tree Service of Greater Reno, a first-year TCIA member company based in Carson City, Nevada. “I want to set extremely high standards for safety.”
Talkington learned about the CTSP credential last winter when Peter Gerstenberger, TCIA’s senior vice president for industry expertise, presented on the topic to the entire Monster Tree Service network of franchise owners. Talkington also met with representatives from ArborMax and Ferguson & McGuire Insurance, his current insurance underwriter and insurance agency respectively, for additional insight into the credential.
“After I learned about the program, I immediately decided it would be the best way to set the standard and lead by example as an owner, so I took the training.”
Safety is far from a new arena for Talkington. He has been exposed to dozens of costly and high-quality safety courses in different industries during his career.
“I have worked with very expensive and potentially deadly materials and processes – high explosives, nuclear materials, dangerous chemicals and heavy industrial machinery. While it was dangerous, it allowed me to learn from some very expensive and excellent safety training. My main goal has been to focus on universally applicable safety courses,” he says.
Although experienced in highly specialized training, such as dealing with radioactive materials or training specific to a facility, he says he really seeks out psychology-related courses that provide skills equally applicable to working in a restaurant or testing explosives in the desert.
“The thing I liked about this course is that it had nothing to do with trees whatsoever. I valued that because when I teach my employees about safety, I want them to go home and teach their family, because that is what a responsible safety leader should do,” he says.
The course covers four key areas: leadership, hazard identification, incident control and prevention and adult learning. During the two-day virtual course, what stood out for Talkington was the intense focus on incident-investigation
tools such as direct cause, indirect cause, mental states and root causes. Additionally, Talkington has developed an incident-tracking spreadsheet that allows him to track and investigate each minor incident with his crew to prevent major incidents by focusing on learning from the small ones.
“When it comes to causal analysis, there is no difference between a broken rake handle or a broken leg, they are all accidents and they all have causes,” he notes. “Our goal is to investigate the mental processes that lead to each incident and avoid making the same mistake more than once.
“The CTSP course was not afraid to get into the question of, ‘What was your mental state?’ So I took that and applied it to how I teach my crew as we investigate every tiny incident. As a result, in the first year in business, I’ve had no injuries, no major damages, no claims and no insurance-rate increases, because I was able to demonstrate all the things I was doing to ensure safety.”