Q&A with Aerial Lift Specialist Dave Webb Jr.

Q&A with Aerial Lift Specialist Dave Webb Jr.

Written by Mick Kelly

As more and more tree care companies transition from climbing to working out of aerial lifts, the need to talk about safe ownership and operation of these pieces of equipment has become evident. Many times we hear from companies that they don’t know their aerial lift should be inspected annually and/or where or how to get the inspection done. 

At ArboRisk, we wanted to give you some basic information and provide a resource to help you out, so I sat down with Dave Webb Jr. of Wellbuilt Equipment to talk a little bit more about his background and knowledge of aerial lifts. His family has been in the aerial lift business for over 30 years – so they know a thing or two about what you should be looking for with your lifts!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the lift industry.

My name is Dave Webb Jr. and I work at Wellbuilt Equipment. We’re a family owned and operated full service aerial lift company based out of Crete, IL. My dad started our company in 1987 in our back yard with just a couple of lifts. Since then we have grown to over 500 machines in our rental fleet and a staff of almost 30 people. 

I’m a second-generation aerial lift mechanic. I started working at Wellbuilt when I was 12 and became a mechanic when I was 18. I’m over 20 years into the industry and about 16 as a mechanic. Despite being in the management team here, I still work on equipment every day. I love getting dirty and fixing equipment, and hope to continue that path as long as possible. 

Explain the process of the annual inspection and why it’s so important?

First off, annual inspections are important to keep tabs on not only common wear and tear items but also long-term maintenance items and breakages that may occur on equipment. Many of our customers bring in their equipment quarterly for inspection and maintenance, but most are on a yearly rotation. 

The process of an inspection at our shop is very in depth. From top to bottom we touch everything on the machine. This includes checking electrical connections, torque checking every nut, bolt, hose, pin, mount, you name it, load testing, performing preventative maintenance and ensuring all proper decals and placards are in place. 

For more information regarding inspections, click here to visit our website!

How and where can you become a certified lift operator?

You can become a certified lift operator through an IPAF location (such as ourselves) or other independent aerial lift companies. We require that whomever is performing the training is familiar with the brand and model of the machine they are using to certify operators/users.

Do you have a brand and model of lift you recommend?

We sell two brands that we have partnerships here in the US with – CTE and Palazzani (Spimerica). Both have an industry leading 2 year warranty and excellent service and support. 

We try not to pick favorites as no brand truly checks all the boxes when it comes to design and customer service. We work on every brand of spider lift out there as well as over 60 brands of aerial lifts and other equipment. Brands and models vary heavily in features and cost, we try not to force a particular brand on a customer, but rather point them in the direction that best suits their needs. 

For more information on aerial lifts or inspections, visit Wellbuilt Equipment’s website here: https://www.wellbuiltequipment.com/

If you need further assistance with safety, please reach out to a member of our ArboRisk team. We have many resources that can help you with this, in addition to our Thrive Safety Package, which gives you one-on-one help creating the safety culture that you desire.

Margaret Hebert

Management’s Role in Safety

Management’s Role in Safety

Written by Margaret Hebert and Eric Petersen, CIC

We often hear that safety starts at the top, however, what does that actually mean? In this article we’re going to dig into the role that management plays in instituting a culture of safety within a tree care company. 

When building a safety and health program, many companies turn to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for guidance. Sure enough, OSHA lists Management Leadership as the first of its seven core elements and for good reason. 

Management of an organization, the business owner(s), managers, supervisors, etc., provides the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety program. Being at the top of the organization, management must embrace and communicate a few basic principles:

  • Make worker safety a core organizational value.
  • Provide sufficient resources to implement and maintain the safety program once it is developed.
  • Visibly demonstrate and communicate their safety commitment to workers.
  • Set an example through their own actions.

According to OSHA, management leadership of a safety program can be broken down into four action items.

Item 1:  Communicate your commitment to a safety program.  A clear, written policy helps you communicate that safety and health are primary organization values – as important as productivity, profitability, service quality, and customer satisfaction. After all, without safety, none of these other things can happen.  

Item 2:  Define program goals.  By establishing specific goals and objectives, management sets expectations for everyone on their team and for the program overall. The goals and objectives should focus on specific actions that will improve workplace safety and health. Establish realistic, measurable goals for improving safety and emphasize preventing injury and illness rather than focusing on incident rates.  

Item 3:  Allocate Resources. Management has the authority to provide the resources needed to implement the safety program, pursue program goals, and address program shortcomings when they are identified. To do this effectively, management must integrate safety and health into the planning and budgeting process. Estimating the resources needed to establish and implement the program and allowing time in workers’ schedules for them to fully participate in the program are two critical components to an effective safety program. Remember to include all of the following when considering what safety resources your company needs: capital equipment and supplies, staff time, training, PPE and Safety Data Sheets.

Item 4:  Expect performance.  Management leads the program effort by establishing roles and responsibilities and providing an open, positive environment that encourages communication about safety and health. They will identify a front line person or persons (even a safety committee) to be responsible for safety performance. That person or committee charged with safety responsibility will need to make plans, coordinate activities, and track progress. Providing positive recognition for meeting or exceeding safety goals aimed at preventing injury and illness (e.g. reporting close calls or near misses, attending training, conducting inspections) is also a crucial management function. 

In case you are wondering what OSHA’s seven core elements of safety and health programs, they are as follows:

  1. Management Leadership
  2. Worker Participation
  3. Hazard Identification and Assessment
  4. Hazard Prevention and Control
  5. Education and Training
  6. Program Evaluation and Improvement
  7. Communication

If you have any questions on what role your management team should be playing in your safety culture, please reach out to a member of our ArboRisk team. We have many resources that can help you with this, in addition to our Thrive Safety Package, which gives you one-on-one help creating the safety culture that you desire.

Margaret Hebert
Margaret Hebert

Enhance Your Safety Culture

Enhance Your Safety Culture

Written by Tom Dunn

In the never ending quest to make sure every employee returns home safely each day, we wanted to take a deeper look into the concept of a company safety culture and the opportunities available for enhancing it.

We have previously touched on this topic in our weekly business tips articles (4 tips to creating a culture of safety) that included high level concepts like communication, training/employee development, preparing for safety, written procedures and having a safety “guru” on staff.

In this article we want to identify two specific, affordable and long lasting ways you can enhance your company safety culture. Both of these are offered by the only organization representing commercial tree care companies across the U.S, the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Full disclosure, the author worked at TCIA for 7 years.

The Certified Tree Care Safety Professional (CTSP) and the Arborist Safety Training Institute (ASTI) are two programs that individuals (CTSP) and tree care companies (ASTI) can access to enhance their company’s safety culture.

The CTSP program is one I went through personally. I found it very helpful in my roles at TCIA and continually saw the benefits it provided to tree care companies who had individuals complete the program. The idea behind this designation is to teach an individual about the different ways the adult learner takes in information and identify their own teaching styles to help them become the safety “guru” for their organizations.  

The individual going through this program can come from many different areas of a company, and depending on the size of the organization it might make sense to have more than one individual from a company obtain the designation. There are eligibility requirements, but TCIA will work with individuals to get them enrolled in the program.

The program is definitely a commitment for the individual going through it and for the company that is paying for it, but the long term benefits are far reaching for both.

There are other benefits as well. Insurance company underwriters are very interested in working with companies who have CTSP’s on their staff and offer discounted pricing for those companies. OSHA investigators are well aware of the designation and will take it into account during an accident investigation. In fact, as part of some settlement agreements, they have required companies to enroll individuals in the program.

Spurred on by Covid-19 restrictions, TCIA has made a commitment to transitioning the program to an online format. This has created the added benefit of cutting down on the travel costs that may have deterred companies from committing in the past.

To maintain their CTSP credentials, individuals must re-certify every 3 years, but there are many creative and accessible ways to obtain the CEU’s. Those who continue in the program become part of an active nationwide community for the rest of their working lives.

The ASTI program is another opportunity that not everyone is probably aware of or takes advantage of to enhance their safety culture. Smaller tree care companies who would like to bring in high quality, outside safety training, now have a way to do it affordably. Grants up to $2,000 are available to fund ½ day or full day training. You can utilize TCIA curriculum from the Tree Care Academy programs or other educational material as long as it relates back to safety topics that are important to tree care workers.

There are some caveats behind the ASTI program that you will need to consider. They have been put in place to offer quality safety training that will reach the biggest audience of tree care workers possible. For example, workshops have to be made available to all tree care workers in a particular geographic location and must be held in a neutral location (not at a tree care company shop).

The grantee is also responsible for marketing and registration for the event, but TCIA does offer materials to help as well as a list of approved instructors. There have been a number of tree care companies who have been awarded grants since the program was started. Why not your company?

Both of these programs will show your employees and potential employees that you are serious about creating a positive safety culture. Check out https://www.tcia.org/ for more information.  

ArboRisk is doing its part to help companies assess their safety culture and show employees of your commitment to safety. We have developed a safety culture survey that employees can take with actionable steps for company leaders to address any safety related deficiencies identified. Call us for more information on implementing the survey and check out our Safety Package for one-on-one help.

Tom Dunn

Components of a Safety Culture

Components of a Safety Culture

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Safety Culture. Those two words sound simple enough, but sometimes can be very complex within tree care companies. Throughout the 18 plus years of working with tree services, I’ve boiled down the complexity of safety cultures to three main components. 

Attitudes and Feelings – Certainly when all three components are present, a tree care company’s safety culture will be the strongest, however, without a solid focus on the attitude and feelings of the team towards safety the overall culture will suffer. That’s why the most important part of a tree care company’s safety culture are the attitudes and feelings of everyone involved. Essentially this begins with the leadership’s commitment towards getting everyone home safe each night and permeates throughout every individual on the team. The messaging that is used helps all believe in a safe workplace and therefore feel secure that everyone is looking out for their own and other’s safety.

Written Programs/Policies – I’ve said it many times before, the commitment to safety must be in writing in the form of a written safety program and policies. Safety is merely a concept that may be hard to grasp for some people, which is why specific expectations and procedures must be outlined in writing for your team to follow. Not only does it create consistency for all involved it gives a physical aspect to the importance of the topic. When a team member can hold a safety program in their hand, there is a transition that happens subconsciously from safety as a concept to a tangible part of their every day work. 

Training – Henry Ford is quoted as saying “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” Can you imagine where your business would be today if you did not offer training to your team? Training your employees is the only way to ensure they understand the risk involved with every task they perform and operate in a way that you want for your organization. Training also enables your employees to feel confident that they are working for a company who values their individual safety and personal development. 

Focusing on these three components will drastically improve your safety culture and position your company for great success. 

Since ArboRisk’s mission is to get every arborist home safe each night, we’ve designed a specific consulting package to work one-on-one with your organization. Visit our webpage for the Thrive Safety Package to learn more. In addition to the Thrive Safety Package, all ArboRisk clients receive a Safety Culture Assessment that allows you to peer into your safety culture and find areas that need improvement.


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.