4 Tips to Create a Culture of Safety

4 Tips to Create a Culture of Safety

Written by Mick Kelly

At ArboRisk, we often hear people say they want to build a better safety culture, but many times they don’t know how to do that. Because we all know a great safety culture doesn’t just look at the health and wellbeing of your employees – it also incorporates equipment maintenance, public safety both on the jobsite and on the road, and your brand reputation, you must be strategic in establishing the safety culture that you want within your organization. 

By creating a strong safety culture, you are developing an ethos for your company and giving your employees an idea of how things are done in your business. Your goal should be to ingrain in the collective memory of your team, through repetition, routine and diligence, the importance of making sure every employee gets home safe each night. 

Here are my 4 tips to create a stronger culture of safety within your business! 


The key to any culture is communication. If you don’t have a clear, defined idea of what your safety culture is, then this will trickle down to every aspect of your business. It is imperative that the message from leadership is crystal clear, that you are more interested in everyone’s safety than saving a half hour of work. Because of that, you expect your team to follow the guidelines and not to cut corners. It’s a message that has to be repeated every day until it becomes the mantra of the company. 


Training/Employee Development

Training is one of the largest key aspects for increasing safety awareness within an organization, and by the way is also a great way of retaining employees. Laying out a clear development path(s) within your organization and encouraging employees to obtain industry certification or designations will help grow your safety culture because they will be able to visualize how their role impacts every other person at your company. The more decorated your team becomes and the prouder they are of their work, the more that your safety culture will thrive.


Preparing for Safety

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Nothing could be more true about safety. A strong safety culture is created intentionally by being prepared. That means proactive thinking must occur to set up topics for safety meetings in advance, investigating what new equipment or technology is available to help your team operate safer (think wireless communication headsets for your helmets) and installing a telematics system into your vehicles. All of those items are done in advance of an injury and accident. To begin preparing for safety, simply take a half hour to sit down and think about potential hazards that your team faces each day and create a simple action plan on how to minimize each of those hazards. Use your “toolbox” meetings to cover one topic a day.  


Written Procedures

Writing anything down makes it more official. Being able to provide an employee with written guidelines will solidify the seriousness of your intent. Written procedures give directions for handling difficult or stressful situations like reporting procedures for an injury or accident. Explaining the long term benefits of these written procedures to employees will take away the stigma of the extra work they may perceive comes with it.  


Other tips and hints

  • Take the time to look over your past mistakes – look at your written reports and see if there is a pattern that is leading to broken equipment, accidents in vehicles, accidents on jobs, etc. 
  • Having a “Safety Guru” onstaff is a great way to manage the safety culture. Often you’ll find an employee that is passionate about theirs and others safety and they can be the advocate you need within your organization.


Here at ArboRisk, one of our core mission values is to help each of our clients make sure their team gets home safely each and every night. Helping our clients create a safety culture within their company, whether it’s a one-man operation or they have numerous employees, is imperative to achieving that mission. A great safety culture will also help grow your business by attracting the right employees and in the long term will help to keep your insurance costs down. 

Taking the time to develop and implement a comprehensive safety program is the first step, but living and breathing safety within your company is really where you’ll see the results. Because developing a safety program takes time, ArboRisk partners with tree care companies to create personalized programs in a fraction of the time. For more information, check out our Safety Package and contact us today!

Hydraulics Safety

Hydraulics Safety

Written by Margaret Hebert, Dawn Thierbach, and Jeff Thierbach

Arborists work with equipment utilizing hydraulics every day  – chippers, chip dump beds, stump grinders, aerial lifts, and the list goes on.  While accidents from hydraulic fluid leaks are rare, accounting for only 5% of all accidents within the tree care industry, they can result in serious injuries and even amputation.  

So before we begin to talk about hydraulic injuries and how to prevent them, let’s look at some stats:

  • The pressure needed to penetrate skin is only 100 psi. 
  • Chippers, chip dump beds, stump grinders, and other equipment arborists use daily can run at 4000 PSI or higher. 
  • Amputation rates for an injection injury with solvents involved are 50-80%.  
  • With pressures greater than 7000psi, the amputation rate is 100%.

High-pressure injection injuries occur when fluid under pressure is lost through a small hole in a hydraulic or other pressurized system and the pressurized fluid penetrates the skin of a victim. The injuries are characterized by a small puncture wound that can appear mild in the beginning, and they often get dismissed as minor.  Hydraulic fuel injection injuries, however, are anything but minor. In fact, they are considered a surgical emergency.  Hydraulic oils are highly toxic and they poison you and your body’s tissues.  Immediate treatment is required to save the patient’s digit, limb, or life.

So, what happens after a hydraulic fuel injection injury? Let’s use an injury to the hand for example. First, the initial “strike” feels like a pin prick or bee sting, is seemingly harmless in appearance, and is often dismissed as nothing serious. Underneath the skin, however, the injectant begins damaging tissue, and pressure builds up in the hand and fingers. Within hours, the fluid can quickly spread to all areas of the hand, wrist, and forearm. The built up pressure damages tendons, nerves, arteries, vessels, and muscles. Unless pressure is relieved within hours of the injury, the victim risks amputation from lack of blood supply.

Surgery is always required for a hydraulic fuel injection injury.  During the surgery, as much of the injectant as possible will be cleaned out, and dead (necrotic) tissue must be removed.  Typically the wound must be left open to reduce the chance of infection and any further tissue damage, and a return visit to the operating room will be required within 24-48 hours.

Properly training your team is essential for avoiding or minimizing the severity of hydraulic injection injuries. Training should include:

  • An overview on hydraulic pressure systems and basic functionality. 
  • A plan of action in case a leak occurs:
    • Immediately shutting down the machine as soon as possible to avoid leaking fluid.
    • Changing the hose after all stored energy has dissipated.
    • Hydraulic fluid cleanup and remediation.
  • A plan of action if a hydraulic injury occurs.
    • First aid treatment to include:
      • For pain management, if needed, use Tylenol.  Avoid Ibuprofen, Aleve, and aspirin since they are mild blood thinners and there’s some chance of internal bleeding.
      • Elevate the affected limb.
      • DO NOT use compression wraps, tourniquets, or ice.  All these increase the risk of amputation.
      • DO NOT give the victim food or drink since they will be needing immediate surgery.
      • Get the patient to a trauma center or hospital immediately!  A trauma center is recommended due to rapid access to a surgeon, transfer capabilities to higher levels of care such as hand or vascular surgery, and immediate availability of X-ray and CT imaging.  Early antibiotics (ideally within an hour) and early surgery (ideally within 10 hrs) are the keys to reducing the need for amputation. 
      • Inform medical personnel that it is a hydraulic pressure injury and provide them with the safety data sheet (SDS) for the fluid. 
      • If the facility does not have treatment capabilities, the patient will need to be transported quickly.  In one incident we are aware of, the patient was air-lifted to the nearest hospital that had the ability to properly treat the injury.
    • Notification of emergency personnel (911)
  • Emphasis on never using your hands to check for leaks.
  • Training on how to check and maintain your hoses regularly, with a frequency of at least once per week. 
  • Ensuring that replacement of old hoses occurs when the machine is turned off and stored energy has dissipated following proper lockout-tagout procedures.

Remember to keep the training fresh in your team’s memory by including it as a topic in tailgate meetings a few times each season.

If you need help adding in a hydraulic safety component to your overall safety program, enroll in ArboRisk’s Thrive Safety Package, to work one-on-one with one of our Thrive consultants. Together we all can get everyone home safe each night.

Distracted Driving and Road Rage

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Written by Peggy Drescher

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stats show that while Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, there were still an estimated 6 million accidents and 38,680 deaths.  The main behavioral causes were impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.  Two causes on the rise were distracted driving (accounting for over 3,000 deaths last year) and road rage. We’re going to dig into these two causes in this article. 

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts your attention from driving. This includes talking, texting, eating and drinking, using phone, changing the stereo, etc.  How many people have you seen blow through red lights?  Chances are they were distracted by something causing them to miss the red light. –PRO DRIVING TIP – if you are first in line at a red light, when it changes to green DO NOT proceed through the intersection for 3-5 seconds and look both ways before you do.

Did you know that texting will take your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds?  This amounts to driving the length of a football field at 55 MPH with your eyes closed!  Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to be in a crash and about 1 of every 4 motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use.  Those that are texting are 8-23 times more likely to cause a crash.

If you haven’t had a safety topic on Distracted Driving, now is the time to do so. During your meeting, discuss your company’s stance on cell phone usage while operating a company vehicle, because if an accident occurs on the job, it not only affects your business but also your employees and their families. 

Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels states:

“OSHA’s message to all companies whose employees drive on the job is straightforward: It is your responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against texting while driving.”

In addition, nearly every state has passed some sort of statewide law against distracted driving. There are plenty of resources that have sample cell phone usage policies, however, one that you could use as a reference is from the NSC.org inside of their Safe Driving kit.  

Now, to discuss road rage or just plain erratic drivers.  Road rage includes lane weaving, running red lights, speeding, tailgating, making obscene hand gestures, yelling verbal insults and even inflicting physical harm.  

I’m sure everyone has seen this before or perhaps even participated in any of these – have you ever been driving behind someone going 70 MPH and have them intentionally drop a piece of metal out of their window?  I have – and I am lucky it hit the bottom of my car but the sound was like a bomb went off.  What came out of my mouth was not very peaceful.  Besides it making me nervous to continue the 2-hour drive I still had to accomplish, I had bad thoughts about the driver for quite a while.  

If road rage happens to one of your crew during the work day what do you think that does to their performance?  I suggest having a safety discussion and ask your employees if they have any examples, I bet you’ll get some interesting stories to discuss.  

Here are a few ways to combat the urge to participate in road rage: 

  • Provide your crew with the resources to get the job done correctly before they leave the shop so they are not stressed about the work for the day.
  • Teach breathing techniques to use in difficult situations.  They truly do work!
  • Have all employees go through a defensive driving course once per year.
  • Investigate apps for cell phone blocking technology and safe driving

In addition, if you need help with incorporating driver safety into your safety program, reach out to an ArboRisk team member to enroll in our Thrive Safety Package and begin working one-on-one with our industry experts.  

Listed below are a few other links that have great resources for safe driving topics, free posters and even surveys that your employees can take to score their driving. If you need help with developing a safety topic on this subject, I would be happy to help.  Stay safe out there!




GHSA State Laws – Distracted Driving

Traffic Safety Huddles

Road Rage Sheet

Improving Safety with Leading Indicators

Improving Safety with Leading Indicators

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

One of my favorite things about the tree care industry is interacting with passionate people from all across the globe who are trying to help get every arborist home safe each night. Sometimes conversations spark waves of momentum and begin to force change within the industry. I feel we are at the beginning of a new wave of momentum within the tree care industry when looking at how to prevent injuries. That new wave is being caused by using leading indicators to improve safety. 

While the concept of leading indicators is not new, it hasn’t been until recent years that I’ve heard people start to talk about them at tree care events. OSHA defines Leading indicators as “proactive, preventive, and predictive measures that provide information about the effective performance of your safety and health activities.” They are metrics that can be recorded and tracked prior to an accident happening. 

Just like a doctor will analyze your blood sample for irregularities to catch a future illness or disease before it negatively affects you and a quality control chemist will ensure the molecular compound of their product is just right, your safety committee can analyze certain metrics within your company to highlight future safety concerns, thereby giving you time to address that concern before an accident happens. 

In a recent TCIA Magazine article (Leading and Lagging Indicators), Bill Owen states, 

Understanding leading indicators and incorporating them into a safety program balances a program and improves overall results by focusing on the behavior that leads to successful outcomes.”

Put another way – behavior first, results second. Building a safety culture around the proper behaviors will give you a better result. And the better result we are all looking for is to reduce or eliminate the severe injuries that continue to plague this industry. 

Common examples of leading indicators are: Safety meetings, Jobsite safety audits, individual and group training events, Jobsite Hazard Analysis, driving tests, Motor Vehicle Record checks, equipment inspections, etc.

When identifying what leading indicators you want to measure within your company, make sure they are specific enough to be easily tracked. A simple Excel spreadsheet can do the trick. Click here to download a free copy of our Leading & Lagging Indicator Dashboard, which was modified from Bill Owen’s example within the aforementioned TCIA Magazine article “Leading and Lagging Indicators.”

At your next Safety Committee meeting, have a discussion around what behaviors (leading indicators) your company can track to begin to highlight where future problems may arise. Create a goal for each of those behaviors and start to measure how your team is doing against the goal. When getting started looking at leading indicators remember, it’s okay if you adjust the metrics you’re using over time as the concept is a bit different than looking at lagging indicators (or using past incident data). The key is to shift your focus onto the behavioral metrics that ultimately help prevent injuries and accidents from happening. 

For more information from OSHA visit their webpage dedicated to Leading Indicators here.

Not yet looking at leading indicators to measure your safety program? We’re here for you. Check out ArboRisk’s Thrive Safety Package to begin to utilize leading indicators to actually prevent injuries from happening within your company.

4 Vehicle Related Safety Meeting Ideas

4 Vehicle Related Safety Meeting Ideas

At ArboRisk, we have been tracking the injuries, accidents and claims our clients have sustained over the last number of years. While reviewing the data, we have found that 39% of all claims were from vehicle accidents!

Unfortunately, that number doesn’t surprise me, as I feel that many tree care companies do not spend much time during their safety meetings talking about driving habits/skills or hazards they face on the road each day. Instead they assume everyone is a good driver and understands the over-the-road exposures all too well that they spend time on other safety topics.

This article is meant to give you 4 simple vehicle related safety meeting ideas that can make talking about your over-the-road exposures not only come to life, but also fun in the process.

Distracted Driving – Ask for a volunteer from your team. Have them sit down in a chair like they were behind the wheel. Send them a text and ask them to respond to you one-handed as if they were driving. When they look down at their phone, toss a soft ball at them and see what their reaction is. Some will catch the ball, others won’t, some may drop their phone, but pay attention to their reaction and open up discussion on distracted driving using this simple exercise.

Backing Up Contest – Everyone thinks they are the best at backing up a truck and trailer, so create a little competition for your team to safely prove it. Set up a small course in your yard or nearby parking lot with cones. Break up into crews of 2 (one driver and one spotter). Select a vehicle to use with a trailer or towed piece of equipment. Create a point system to score the contestants. Give out a small prize to the winning team after discussing what everyone witnessed within the contest.

Pre-Trip Inspection – As you know, your drivers should be performing pre-trip inspection before taking any vehicles out on the road. Unfortunately, this process can become repetitive leading to complacency during the inspection. Highlight the importance of the pre-trip by performing an entire pre-trip inspection with your team on one of your trucks. After going through it with everyone, assign teams to complete a pre-trip together. Discuss with the entire group on what their team found. It may be shocking to hear how members of your team perform the pre-trip differently from others.

Jobsite Setup on Road – Does your team know how to properly set up the jobsite when working on/near a street? Create space in your yard or on the street outside of your shop to set up a jobsite/work zone during the safety meeting. Ask for volunteers from your team to set up the cones and signs at the proper distance. After they have placed them, coach them through any corrections. Discuss what other factors they need to be aware of while working on the street, including traffic control, hi-viz vests, chip truck and loading zone placement, etc.

Just think how better off your company would be if you had 40% less insurance claims. Use these 4 very simple safety meeting ideas to put an emphasis on vehicle safety.

If you need help with your Safety Culture or Driver and Fleet Safety program, contact an ArboRisk team member today.

Written by: Eric Petsersen

Electrical Hazards Awareness

Electrical Hazards Awareness

One of the best characteristics about a tree care professional is how they get excited to talk about and work on trees. Unfortunately, many times that excitement and desire to do tree work brings arborists in close proximity to electrical wires. 

Make no mistake, electricity is a serious and widespread hazard to arborists every day. Even a simple telephone line can be energized with enough voltage to kill. Because of our exposure to electrical hazards, ANSI Z133 states that “The employer shall train each employee….” on the topic.  (4.1.2 – 4.1.4(f)).

Training your team on the following tips is a great start to preventing electrical accidents within your company. However, we strongly recommend that you engage in a full electrical hazard training with every member of your field team at least once per year. 

Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) and Job Briefing – Properly setting up and inspecting the jobsite and surrounding area is the first step in preventing an electrical accident. Formally, this is done when performing a Job Hazard Analysis and again during the Job Briefing before work begins. When you arrive at the job site, be sure everyone on your team checks for electrical wires and guy wires. If it is after a storm, look for electrical lines mixed up with a fallen tree or lines down on the property. When planning and performing your work, you must follow the Minimum Approach Distance (MAD) chart for working near the electrical lines. The MAD charts can be found in the ANSI Z133, section 4.

Work Positioning – When working in the tree or bucket in close proximity to electrical wires, the arborist should always face the electrical lines. Ground workers must also set up the jobsite to avoid any guy wires. Simply place cones to create a visual barrier so a team member does not trip over or walk into a guy wire. REMEMBER THAT LESS THAN ONE AMP CAN KILL A PERSON, so no matter what wire (house service wire, cable and telephone lines, secondary and primary wires) runs through the jobsite, all workers must respect that wire. Being aware of work positioning when working near electrical lines will help prevent:

Contact – Obviously, avoiding direct contact with wires is paramount, but indirect contact can be just as dangerous. Indirect contact occurs when something the arborist touches is energized:  for example, a branch that is contacting an energized wire or other object. Every arborist must ALWAYS KEEP THE WIRE IN FRONT OF THEM to avoid direct or indirect contact with a wire. 

Arcing – Arcing or arc flashing is discharge of electricity caused when wires from different phases are touching or an electrical explosion happens due to a fault in the system. Proper distancing from electrical wires will reduce the risk of injury or death due to arcing.

Step Potential – Step potential is another monster when talking about electricity. Step potential is a voltage difference between the worker’s feet and the electrical grounding object. It can occur when the bucket or truck comes in contact with an electrical wire, thereby changing the electrical path and making a very dangerous situation for the ground worker. Because of this, each crew member must remember to NEVER TOUCH THE BUCKET TRUCK WHILE IN OPERATION NEAR ELECTRICAL LINES, EVEN TO GET A TOOL OUT. Step potential can also occur near guy wires, which is why all guy wires should be discussed during the job briefing and marked when the jobsite is being set up. 

Equipment & Vehicles – Every crew member must also recognize that equipment like gaffs, spurs, or chainsaws can be conductive. Some equipment is labeled “non-conductive” however this does not mean it is electricity safe. Ropes, wooden/fiberglass ladders, fiberglass or wooden pole pruners, and hydraulic saws all are listed as non-conductive.  However, they can become conductive if they are dirty or wet, making proper gear inspection vital. For a more detailed article on gear inspection check out this one. Bucket trucks should be dielectrically tested at least once a year; however, that is the minimum. We recommend getting them tested at least twice a year.

Wind – Wind is always a factor while performing tree work, but it is even more important when working near electrical wires. To avoid potential contact or arcing, consideration must be given to how a cut branch or a rope will react with the wind.  

Get energized by your work, not electricity!  For additional resources on how to institute an electrical hazard training program within your company, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today.

Written by: Dawn Thierbach

and Margaret Hebert