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Risk Management Concerns When Hiring Minors

Risk Management Concerns When Hiring Minors

Written by Ryan Watry

In my daily conversations with tree care companies, finding good employees seems to be the number one issue they face.  Sometimes the solution to that problem is hiring a minor to help.  Hiring someone under the age of 18 does create some different risks and needs than hiring an adult.  Here are three areas to be aware of when considering hiring a minor.

1. State Specific – Each state will have a similar but specific view on the regulations surrounding employing minors. Start by contacting your state’s Department of Workforce Development to find out specific restrictions that may apply.  For example in Wisconsin, tree work is considered hazardous employment.  This means that a minor can not operate machinery including chippers, skid steers, chainsaws, etc..  They are permitted to work on a ground crew, cleaning up and dragging brush.  You also should ask about other employment guidelines such as, the number of hours they may work and if they need a work permit.

2. General Liability & Business Auto Insurance – Depending on your insurance carrier there may be restrictions in your general liability and/or business auto policies that restrict what a person under a certain age can do and what vehicles, if any, they are allowed to drive.   Many insurance companies do not want anyone under the age of 21 to drive for your company. So it is important to check with your agent to see if there are any restrictions on employees under 18. If you are struggling with young driver eligibility, creating a driver management program within your company will help. Check out this article which talks specifically about creating a driver management program. 

3. Workers’ Compensation – Workers compensation insurance will cover any employee regardless of age.  However, there are different benefits added in for someone under 18 who gets hurt.  Again, these benefits differ from state to state, so we recommend checking with your insurance agent on your state’s specifics.  In Wisconsin, if an employee under the age of 18 sustains an injury that results in a partial or permanent disability, the lost wages (or indemnity portion of the claim) paid out will be triple what they would normally be for someone over 18.  Also you can be fined by the state and OSHA if it is found that the minor employee was operating equipment they were not permitted to.  

After researching each of these three areas, you will be able to determine if hiring a minor is right for your business.  Who knows this, may lead a young person down a career path in this exciting industry.

For more specific help on hiring and recruiting, reach out to an ArboRisk team member to discuss our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting Package or the Leadership Development Package today.

Tom Dunn

Taking Your Team to New Heights by Planting a Tree

Taking Your Team to New Heights by Planting a Tree

Written by Kevin Martlage

In a 2019 Gallup Article, “This Fixable Problem Costs US Businesses $1 Trillion”, Gallup reported that voluntary turnover costs businesses $1 trillion dollars annually. In addition, the cost of replacing an employee can range “from one-half to two times their annual salary”. 

To put that in perspective, a full-time employee making $60,000 per year would cost an estimated $30,000 to $120,000 in sourcing, training, on-boarding, and hiring costs to replace them. The interesting thing about the Gallup Poll and their findings is that “52% of voluntary exiting employees said their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job”. So over half of those people who left an organization said they did so because of something their manager or organization did not do. That is incredible to think about and I am sure the costs have increased in the past 3 years since the publication. 

So, what can we do strategically as business owners and leaders to ensure we find the right employees and then ultimately support them as they become leaders within our organization, and we reach new heights as a team? The answer is simple. Go plant a tree. 

As a leader in the tree care industry, you must always ensure that you, and your team, are knowledgeable in understanding what is necessary to meet the needs of your clients while expertly taking care of their trees. This takes on a lot of different forms including Plant Health Care (PHC), pruning, planting, and removal. Let’s take planting a tree for instance. Anyone can certainly go outside, dig a hole, place the tree in that hole, and fill the hole while hoping that the tree makes it. However, if you follow the guidelines outlined on the Trees are Good Website for planting a tree you quickly see that there is much more to the process than just digging a hole and planting a tree. Specially, they recommend you consider the following:

  • Identifying the right tree to plant
  • When to plant
  • Planting stress
  • How to properly plant the tree (there are 9 steps outlined in this section)
  • Right Tree – Right Place
  • How to mulch the tree 
  • How to avoid any potential tree and utility conflicts

All these things are very important for an arborist to consider when planting a tree. By taking into consideration these things you are ensuring that the tree will establish the appropriate root system and continue to grow and flourish as part of the canopy and ecosystem in the environment in which it was planted. So, what does planting a tree have to do with hiring and retaining great people? The answer lies within the basic considerations we review when planting a tree. 

I have written before about how developing a career path for your employees is like planting a seed and then caring for it through the germination, seedling, sapling, growth, and nurturing stages Outlining a Career Path for Your Team” – ArboRisk Insurance Weekly Tip January 14, 2022. The same analogy can be made when hiring, on-boarding and then supporting your new and existing team. However now the tree (your new hire) is grown, and it is time to transplant it into its destination. 

Let’s use the considerations for planting a tree as outlined on the Trees Are Good Website as a template. Below, I have outlined the steps to consider when planting a tree and then included questions to consider for the hiring, onboarding, and growth process. These questions are designed to help you ensure the best applicant is identified, hired, and integrated successfully within any organization. 

  • Identifying the right tree to plant
    • What is the position we are hiring?
    • What skills are necessary?
    • Do we have a developed job description that outlines the requirements for the position?
    • What organizational and business culture traits are we looking for?
  • When to plant 
    • When does the position need to be filled (immediately, 30 days, 60 days, etc.)
    • How will we post the job announcement and manage the applications?
  • Planting stress
    • What will the hiring and interview process look like internally and externally?
    • Who needs to be involved, internally, in the hiring/interview process?
    • Who is going to review applications and schedule the interviews?
    • Who will conduct the interviews?
    • What stress will this cause on the organization to find the right applicant?
  • The Right Tree – Right Place
    • How will we identify and assess the applicants to find the right candidate?
    • What are the non-negotiable traits and skills that we must have?
    • What questions are we going to ask each applicant?
  • How to mulch the tree
    • Do we have the proper offer letter developed?
    • What paperwork needs to be done once they accept (i.e., payroll, HR, etc.)
    • What does their first day look like?
    • What does their first 90 days look like?
    • Do we have an onboarding plan?
  • How to avoid any potential tree and utility conflicts
    • Are expectations clearly defined?
    • Are they aware of your organizational culture and how they can impact it?
    • How do we ensure that they are avoiding any “organizational culture hazards” during their first 6 months?
    • How will be ensure that they are growing and flourishing in their new environment?
    • How are we going to ensure they do not leave?

This may seem like an odd analogy when it comes to hiring and supporting your new hires. However, I would argue that if you were planting a $60,000 tree, you would take these steps and more to ensure that the tree was planted perfectly to enable its growth and sustainability. So why would you not do the same for each person, both current and future, within your organization. 

Leadership in today’s economy is not easy. Supporting your team, ensuring you have a hiring and on-boarding plan, and making sure that your team feels supported and engaged is the X factor that will set your tree care company apart from the competition. I encourage you to continue to focus on your people, both current and future, so that you are not part of the more than $1 trillion in expenses seen globally by companies who are losing employees because of things they could have identified and changed to ensure they stayed. 

If you are interested in learning more about effective hiring, recruiting, on-boarding, and overall leadership development and planning, please check out the Risk Management Packages located on the Arborisk Insurance website. If you need more assistance with hiring and recruiting, contact ArboRisk to learn more about their Thrive Risk Management Hiring & Recruiting Package or the Leadership Development Package.

Tom Dunn

The Value of Stay Interviews

The Value of Stay Interviews

Written by Sheila Beaumier

Should I stay, or should I go now?

Yes, those are lyrics from an eighties song by The Clash, but they run through employees’ heads everywhere daily.  

Employees often dedicated more time weekly to their employers than to their families. For most, work is necessary, and they want to feel trusted, valued, and appreciated. While that seems basic and reasonable, it often does not happen. Why? The why is not so easy. The employer-employee relationship takes work, listening, and communication like every relationship.

For decades many organizations have conducted or attempted to conduct an exit interview with outgoing staff. When you think about it, once you are at that point, when the staff member is leaving, what you learn is too late for any action you may take to affect the outgoing staff member. When you realize three of your staff have left because they did not feel they had the tools to do the job, you will likely create a plan to be sure your other staff members have the tools to do the job. As for the three who left, it’s too late. 

What if you make a slight shift and conduct stay interviews instead? In the stay interview, you have a chance to listen and incorporate the feedback to impact your existing staff, and in turn, the organization retains people. When your folks see this, they feel valued, listened to, and appreciated. When you conduct a stay interview, you find out why people stay and what makes them consider leaving. You have a chance to use the data you collect to improve retention, improve communications, and take action on what is important to your staff. In these meetings, you are building trust and improving communication by merely holding the meetings. When you take action on what you learn, the trust strengthens.

Stay interviews don’t have to be complicated, but you do want to be sure you do them individually and within a short period. Setting the stage for the stay interviews is essential; you don’t want to show up on a site and start pulling people off their jobs and asking questions. So, be sure your management team and your staff know in advance that you will conduct these interviews, what they are, and why you are running them. Ensure your staff knows this initiative is meant to help you understand what is working for them and what they want to see change. Stay interviews generally are twenty minutes to half an hour, but the time frame depends on the number of questions and how much sharing takes place. 

Tips for a successful stay interview

  • Put on your down-to-earth hat, be friendly and make everyone feel comfortable.
  • If you can find a location where folks feel more comfortable, all the better. I am a big fan of picnic table stay interviews, with food, of course, just not in the wintertime in Boston.
  • Don’t use this time to toot your horn. This interview is a time for you to be genuine and show genuine interest in learning and listening.
  • Plan your questions ahead and ask everyone the same questions. Do not ask questions that can be answered with a yes/no response.  
  • Maybe ask:
    • What is your favorite part about your job?
    • If you had a magic wand, what would you change and why?
    • Do you have the tools to do your job?
    • What can I do to help you be successful?
  • Be sure each person knows that you have appreciated their time
  • Keep notes
  • Look for themes
  • Create action plans or involve your staff in the creation of the plans
  • Follow up and let people know about the action plans and implement them.

Are stay interviews for every organization? The truth is no; they are not a good idea for every organization. For example, suppose you have not cultivated a culture of trust and are unwilling to act on what you find out. In that case, it is better to avoid them because if you aren’t going to take action or involve the staff in taking action, you have just ignored your folks and further eroded their trust and they will continue to mumble the lyrics, “Should I stay or should I go”.

If you need more help with stay interviews or assistance with hiring and recruiting, contact ArboRisk to learn more about their Thrive Risk Management Hiring & Recruiting Package.

Entry Level Driver Training

Entry Level DRiver Training

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Effective February 7th, 2022, the federal government put into effect certain requirements for new drivers looking to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) called the Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) mandate. The goal of the ELDT is to standardize training of new CDL drivers across the country to help make the roads safer for all to travel on.

While the focus of this mandate is geared towards the trucking industry, tree care companies that have CDL drivers and vehicles are affected by this as well. 

So, how does ELDT affect your tree service? 

First off, ELDT is a federal mandate to ensure all new CDL drivers (or drivers looking to add another CDL endorsement to their current license) receive training on the same topics, however, it is important to note that each state may have their own way of implementing the ELDT mandate. Remember, the individual states are the entities who approve and issue the commercial driver’s licenses. So, your first step is to check with the state that your driver(s) will be licensed with to understand their take on this mandate.

The training is broken into two distinct parts; Theory (written/classroom) and Behind the Wheel (BTW). The theory part has thirty one topics ranging from basic commercial vehicle operation to non-driving activities like post-crash procedures. For a list of topics visit Samba Safety’s ELDT page. The BTW portion has two components with both range driving (closed course) and public road driving. The pre-post trip inspections are typically taught during the range driving and the practical experience of being on the road with the commercial vehicle is done within the public road training. 

A driver can do either part (theory or BTW) first, however, they cannot apply to take their physical CDL exam until they have been registered in the Training Provider Registry (TPR). Once they are listed on that national database, then they will be able to take their physical exam to obtain their CDL. From the conversations that I’ve had on this, how new drivers get into the TPR can vary from state to state, so check with the state your driver will be licensed in for specifics. 


That is the basic framework for the mandate, however, if you’ve dug into this in any manner, I know you have more questions, so I’ve compiled a sample of questions that we have received from tree care companies on this new mandate.

  • Can I still train my drivers in house? – Yes, you can, however, your driver will need to be registered in the Training Provider Registry (TPR) showing that they have completed ELDT before scheduling their physical exam to obtain their CDL. How they get registered in the TPR will be state specific.

 

  • Are there online resources to help with training? – Yes, there are a number of vendors who are selling online packages to help employers do in-house ELDT. As an example, JJ Keller offers online material to help companies train in-house. They have a Trainer manual ($129) plus online courses ($1,413 per person) for all topics. A quick google search of ELDT materials will produce many options for you to choose from. 

 

  • Do I need to register as a training school? – If you want to be able to do only in-house training for your new CDL drivers, then yes, you’ll need to have at least one registered instructor and be listed as an approved Training Provider (school). Again, check with your state on what the specifics are to do this as each state may differ.

 

  • How many training hours are required to comply with ELDT? – The ELDT language does not specify the number of hours for training the theory (written) part or behind the wheel. They only require that the driver can pass the written test with 80% proficiency and pass the physical exam. How many hours of training it takes to get that done is up to the training provider.

 

  • How do I record training hours? – There is no guidance or specific format to track training hours, only that you must track the hours spent on each section of the training.

For more information on the ELDT visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s FAQ’s.

If you need help with driver safety and/or fleet management, contact ArboRisk to learn more about their Thrive Risk Management Safety Package!

Tom Dunn

Coffee with a Cop: Traffic Violations

Coffee with a Cop – Traffic Violations

Written by Jim Skiera

Do you know what specific traffic violations are more likely to get your employee(s) pulled over?

The initial thought for this article was to talk to an officer about reasons drivers are stopped while driving vehicles commonly used by tree care companies (chip truck, bucket truck, dump trucks with trailers, etc.). We also wanted to find out what violations cause officers to tag vehicles out of service. Out of service violations become very costly for the business when you add up fines, repair bills, court and legal fees, and downtime that leads to lost revenue. 

To gain insight I spoke with six different officers from multiple police and sheriff departments in the Denver metro area. I started each interview with the same question: 

Of the commercial vehicles that you’ve pulled over in the last month/quarter/year, what suspected violation caused the pull over? 

The consistent answer from each of the patrol officers was they don’t treat commercial vehicles and drivers any differently than passenger vehicles. The officers I spoke with stated they primarily look for drivers of any vehicle committing the moving violations that regularly cause serious accidents and injuries. 

The top five infractions that are most likely to get a patrol officer’s attention and get a driver pulled over are:

  • Speeding: by far the top violation that gets drivers pulled over is speeding. More than 40% of all traffic stops are related to speeding. It is also the number one reason for serious accidents. Statistics show for every 100 speeding tickets issued there are 14 fewer auto crashes and five fewer auto accident-related injuries.  
  • Visible Equipment Violations: Broken or inoperable lights, broken or missing mirrors and other inoperable safety equipment required for drivers to communicate with or see other drivers on the road.
  • Cell Phone Use While Driving; Distracted driving is unsafe driving.
  • Following Too Closely or Improper Lane Changes: These two violations cause accidents by not allowing for proper braking distance and or response time of other drivers to safely avoid collisions.
  • Hazardous or Erratic Driving: Failure to stop, swerving in and out of lanes, drifting over the centerline, etc. are signals that a driver may be impaired, possibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs, falling asleep at the wheel, or texting while driving.  

 

The first officers I spoke to were Patrol officers of which traffic stops are one of many responsibilities of theirs. When they do make a stop, the time spent with each driver is limited and they are not trained to do commercial vehicle inspections. They have limited experience with tagging vehicles out of service. Following one of my interviews, it was recommended I speak to an officer that performs roadside commercial vehicle inspections if I wanted information on why vehicles are tagged out of service.

I eventually was introduced to Deputy Chad Davey of the Douglas County Sherriff’s Office. Deputy Davey is responsible for Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspections in Douglas County. He sets up mobile inspection sites around the county, on county roads and highways and all commercial vehicles are required to stop to be inspected before they can proceed. 

Officer Davey follows an inspection protocol that is used for all inspections. The first part of the inspection is about the driver. He checks for current and proper license, vehicle registration, insurance, drug or alcohol use and driving logs. The second part is a complete vehicle equipment inspection.

 

Question: What is the most common infraction you see with tree care related commercial vehicles during roadside inspections?

Answer: Deputy Davey said he could not specifically say there was a “most common” issue with tree service trucks. He said inspections are comprehensive and he has inches of paperwork of violations. Check the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) website of North American Level 1 Inspection procedures. 

He did give a few examples of common violations he finds with tree and landscape vehicles pulling trailers. The first is nonfunctioning electric emergency trailer brakes. Two things are common, one the battery for the brakes is not working, or the brakes themselves do not engage when tested. He said it’s common for drivers to just check to make sure everything is hooked up, but they don’t check to see if the emergency braking system works. Deputy Davey said probably half the drivers he meets during inspections don’t know they need to test the trailer brakes.

Another common violation is breakaway chains that are damaged from being dragged or are not rated to accommodate the weight of the trailer. He said chains on trailers get damaged. If an inspector sees the chain is worn more than 1/5 its diameter it’s a problem. He also said when chains are replaced, they need to be replaced with chains of the same rating, and often are not.

 

Question: What can a driver do to avoid being pulled over and having their vehicle tagged Out of Service during an inspection?

Answer: Roadside Commercial Vehicle Inspections are mandatory so you can’t avoid being pulled over. What you can do is limit your chance of being tagged out of service by performing daily inspections, completing inspection reports, maintaining your driver’s license and certificates and other required documentation, and keeping vehicles in safe working order. Have required documentation stored somewhere it is easily available when asked for by the inspector. 

Another recommendation for business owners is to include training about what is included in roadside inspections, so drivers understand what the inspectors are reviewing during an inspection. This should be specific to the vehicles employees are using and the state, federal and local restrictions for those vehicles.

Managing the risks for your business is an ongoing task. One area of significant risk is with your fleet and the drivers using the vehicles in that fleet. Preventing incidents that cause damage, injuries, and costly downtime requires commitment by all involved. It starts with the owner providing well maintained and properly operating equipment then complimented with qualified and licensed drivers trained to use and maintain the equipment efficiently, effectively, and safely.

If you have specific questions about roadside inspections, contact your local law enforcement department. They can assist with inspection checklists and regional laws and regulations. If you need help with driver safety and/or fleet management, contact ArboRisk to learn more about their Thrive Risk Management Safety Package!

Tom Dunn

5 Reasons to Run Your Own Driving Records

5 Reasons to Run Your Own Driving Records

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

You hire a new employee and let your insurance company know that they’ll be driving for you. A week or two later, you get a call from your insurance agent saying the new employee cannot be a driver because their driving record is terrible. Now you have a new employee who you don’t know what to do with because driving your company trucks is a requirement of the position that you hired them for. Sound familiar?

Of course it does. Every tree service has had issues with drivers and their insurability. However, the insurance issues are only a small part of the equation when it comes to managing your drivers. 

At ArboRisk, we recommend that all tree care companies pull driving record reports on all drivers, before they are hired and at least once per year while they are still employed with the company. 

When a tree service takes driver management into their own hands they begin to take back some control of the risk that their company faces every day when their employees are out on the road driving their company vehicles. 

In this article, I’ll give you five reasons to run your own driving records internally as part of your driver management. Pssst…a little hint, if number 1 isn’t enough for you, number 5 should be the deciding factor for instituting a driving record review process at your tree care company.  

 

  1. Less Accidents – Obviously, no tree service wants to have their employees and vehicles involved in car accidents, so the first step in avoiding them is to ensure the drivers operating your vehicles have a good driving history. I know you cannot entirely predict the future solely on looking at information from the past, but you can get a strong indication of how the employee may drive for you by reviewing their past driving history. If the driver has a history of accidents and/or other moving violations, the chances that they will get into an accident with your vehicle are greater than that with employees who have a clean driving record. 
  2. Hiring Decision – By running the driving record yourself, you will immediately receive the information needed to make the proper hiring decision and avoid an awkward and potentially dangerous situation if you find out the new employee is a terrible driver after they have already been behind the wheel of one of your vehicles. Eliminate this risk by knowing about their driving record before you hire them. 
  3. Expectations for Employees – Instituting a driving record process within your company, provides clear expectations for potential and current employees on their driving record. If their position requires them to be eligible to drive, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if you just told them up front what those requirements will be? Many times when the insurance company tells you that a driver isn’t eligible to drive, it is for a long time employee. This just exacerbates the problem as it is probably someone who’s experience would be sorely missed on the crew if they cannot drive for the company. Establishing the expectations of what is accepted and what is detrimental to their employment, allows everyone to understand their responsibility in taking care of their own driving record. 
  4. Lower Auto Insurance Rates – We all know that insurance companies don’t want to see their insured tree care companies have vehicular accidents. Therefore, they will reward companies who have the best accident history and written policies and procedures with the lowest rate that they can. To do this, though, they need proof of what the tree service is doing to prevent the accidents from happening and the way you handle driving records within your company is the largest negotiation point you have. Showing the insurance company your driving record guidelines and the process you use along with the frequency of when you check the driving records will help tremendously when trying to lower the cost of your Business Auto Insurance. For other ideas on how to lower your auto insurance cost check out this article. 
  5. Duty of the Employer – I may have listed four other reasons before this, however, this is really the only reason you need to start pulling your company’s driving records. Have you ever heard of the phrase “negligent entrustment”? This is the basis that plaintiff attorneys use when suing a business for damages from a bad auto accident. The principle is simple, when a business allows someone to drive their vehicle they are entrusting them to operate it safely. If that driver ends up injuring or worse, killing another person, the business is held responsible for the actions of the driver. If the business did not review the driver’s driving record, they have negligently allowed them to operate the vehicle. Obviously, once the plaintiff attorney sees that the business did not take reasonable steps to prevent the accident, like knowing what the driver’s driving record is, they go after large settlements. It is the duty of the employer to have a process in place to monitor drivers and their records. Also, due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, your insurance agency/company can only order a driving record for underwriting purposes, meaning to assess the likelihood of an accident, not for employment reasons. So asking your insurance agent/company for driving records does not fulfill your duty as the employer. 

 

Ultimately, by running your own driving records, you are taking control of the risk that your drivers and vehicles bring to your company and lessening the headaches that come with problem drivers. Check out this article to learn how to set up a Driver Risk Management procedure within your company. 

Lastly, if you are looking for one-on-one help in managing your drivers, sign up for our Thrive Safety Package today.

Tom Dunn