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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

Your Role Before the Paramedics Get There!

Your Role Before the Paramedics Get There!

The accident happens, the victim is rescued and down from the tree.  Now, you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive; you have already gone to the truck to get the First Aid kit.  Upon opening the First Aid kit you discover there is nothing in there to help your victim.

We, as an industry, need to re-think how the First Aid kit is stocked. This article is meant to help guide you when setting up your First Aid kit to ensure you have the right pieces to save a life before the paramedics get to the scene.

In addition to the traditional bandages, gauze and medical tape, your First Aid kit should also contain:

  • At least two tourniquets
  • Israeli Bandages
  • Compressed Bandages
  • Nasal Trumpet (nasopharyngeal airway)
  • SAM Splint

All First Aid kits on the truck should have these materials, however, it is also a good idea for a climber and a ground person to carry a small personal First Aid pouch with them whether in the tree or on the ground.  The climber can carry it attached to his climbing harness with a carabiner and the ground person can carry one hooked to his belt with a Velcro strap.

The aforementioned tourniquet can be used with one hand for the climber to apply.  It will take practice, but when you sever an artery, you will be glad you learned how to use it.  With a severed artery, you have less than four minutes to survive.  You know it is going to take longer for a rescuer to climb up the tree to retrieve you and descend with you than four minutes. Carrying a tourniquet as a climber could possibly save your life!

For the ground person, saving a crew member, having the tourniquet on your person rather than running back to the truck to retrieve the first aid kit saves time and possibly a life.

The Israeli Bandage and compression bandages are another great item to have in your First Aid kit on the ground person’s kit. They can be used as a tourniquet or compressed bandages for the head, chest, arms and legs.  Compressed bandages can be used to help stop bleeding for gaping wounds.

The nasal trumpet can be used to create ease of breathing. All you must do is cut the tube of the nasal trumpet to the person’s nose length and then firmly insert.

The SAM splint is used to treat broken bones and possibly create a neck brace to lessen mobility so the rescuer can bring the victim down.

Personalizing your own First Aid kit to include anything that you think might be an advantage for saving your crew member’s life is an important part of taking safety seriously. Remember you are the first responder and if you are well prepared it might save your or your crew member’s life.

Because training is required for most of these life-saving methods, we would encourage you to contact our ArboRisk Thrive Consultants, Dawn Thierbach or Margaret Spencer, to sign up for one of their upcoming Trauma Classes.

Written by: Dawn Thierbach

Reduce the Risk of Losing a Lawsuit by 1/3rd

Reduce the Risk Of Losing a LAwsuit by 1/3rd

While attending an advanced insurance seminar recently, I learned that of all of the lawsuits that end in a jury or judicial award, 35% of them come from auto accidents (Bureau of Justice Statistics). When analyzing the incidents from our insured tree services we see the same pattern, where vehicular accidents are the leading cause of all claims. This probably is not that surprising to you. Tree care companies obviously drive large trucks and equipment all day, every day to get to their work done. A small fender bender in a large truck typically produces more damage and more severe injuries than the same accident with a private passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, a lot of companies do not focus on limiting this huge exposure because it is just seen as a fact of doing business.

 

Below are the three most common ways to reduce your risk of losing a lawsuit by one third.

Hire the Right Drivers – Do you have a process in place to hire the best drivers? Start by developing a guideline for driving records and review the potential employee’s record at the start of the hiring process. It is not a secret why drivers with bad driving records pay more for their personal insurance, they are more likely to have another incident in the future. Once the applicant passes your written guidelines for their record, have them take a driving test with one of your vehicles. Assess their physical ability to operate your equipment safely. This not only can eliminate the risk of hiring a bad driver, it can also give you a starting point for training the individual.


Maintain Your Fleet – Are your trucks operating as safely as possible? Clearly, a well maintained vehicle is less likely to have a failure and cause an accident. So, create a maintenance schedule for each vehicle based off of the manufacturer’s recommendation. Whether your mechanic is in house or owns a separate business across town, make sure you keep a written record of the maintenance done to each truck and trailer so that you can prove the steps you took to minimize an accident from mechanical or equipment failure.


DOT Compliance – Do you know what you are required to have in place from a Department of Transportation perspective? If you are operating out of compliance and a serious accident occurs, judges and juries will have an easier time awarding a large settlement. Look for a separate article specifically on DOT compliance in a few weeks.


If one of your team members is involved in a serious accident, the judge and jury will look at what types of measures your company took to prevent the accident in the first place. If you can prove all three of these points above, your company will have a much better chance at winning the lawsuit or minimizing the settlement. And speaking about the settlement, make sure you purchase adequate liability limits on your Business Auto policy that will allow you to remain in business if a terrible accident does occur.

Written by: Eric Petersen

5 Simple and Powerful Safety Meeting Topics

5 Simple and Powerful Safety Meeting Topics

Keeping your safety meetings interesting to your employees can sometimes be a challenge. Below are five simple yet very powerful meeting ideas that you can use to help continue to promote your culture of safety.

 

Watch Face Exercise – At the TCIA’s 2018 Winter Management Conference, Jim Spigener stated that 75% of all work related fatalities in the United States come from making a mistake while doing routine work. 75%!! To prove this point, he asked everyone to write down as many details about the face of your favorite watch. He said to include specifics like colors, what the numbers look like, what shape are the hands of the watch, etc. It was shocking to see how difficult it was to explain something as common as my favorite watch. This exercise will make the connection that we take routine items and tasks for granted which could lead to a serious accident.

 

Scenario Training – Gather your team in small groups and have the team write out three near miss scenarios from their personal experience. Then instruct the group to discuss the events and create solutions to avoid this near miss in the future. Have a team member from each group share their group’s near misses and solutions. This promotes open communication between team members and encourages everyone to continue to better themselves to be safe every day.

 

Old Rope Under Tension – Because many Arborists learn by watching something happen, this meeting topic shows the importance of always having a second line secured while making a cut. Take an old rope that is out of commission and put it under tension in a vertical setting like it would be when climbing a tree. Use a handsaw to lightly touch the rope until the rope fails. If you have enough rope, split your team up into groups to perform the same test. When the arborist realizes how little pressure is needed from the handsaw to compromise the rope, you should never again see someone not being tied in twice before making a cut.

 

What is Your Safety Story? – I wrote an entire post on this idea in a previous article (click here for it), however, it was such an easy, influential topic, I wanted to mention it again. Begin the safety meeting by asking everyone to write down a time when safety mattered to them. It could be from a serious accident that happened to them or one they witnessed. It could be from an event they heard about. Whatever it is, everyone has a story about the importance of safety that gets to their core. After everyone is done writing, explain why safety matters to you and what your safety story is. Then break the team up into small groups to discuss their individual safety stories. While this is similar to the Scenario Training exercise, this meeting idea should help employees dig deeper to find their motivator for safe behavior. When you focus on personal stories that revolve around safety, the message of working safe becomes a reality for your team.

 

Chainsaw Demo – Gather your team around a log in your yard. Tell everyone to watch very closely as the chain tears through the log easily. Ask them to take note of the sounds that it makes, the sight of the wood chips flying, perhaps the smell of the exhaust, chain oil and gas mixture. Get them to really be present in the moment of how powerful this machine is. Turn off the saw and pause, for dramatic effect. Quietly ask your team, what would they hear, see and smell if that saw was going through one of their limbs. A chainsaw is the most common tool that we use as Arborists and like our watch face, very often we take for granted what we use every day. When your team really thinks about the damage that a chainsaw can do and how quickly it can happen, there should be no reason that chaps are left in the truck.

 

There you go, five simple yet extremely powerful ideas to keep your safety meetings fresh and make safety personal to everyone on your team. By committing to safety excellence, we all can make sure that every arborist gets home safe each night.

 

Lastly, I want to credit Scott Jamieson of Bartlett Tree Experts for sharing the Scenario Training, Old Rope Under Tension and Safety Story meeting ideas at a TCIA Roundtable that ArboRisk hosted back in June of 2018. Thanks for your dedication to the industry Scott!

Written by: Eric Petersen

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges that a business owner faces, especially in the tree care world. Despite the frustrations that hiring presents, you can get great employees on your team by setting up a structure for your hiring process. And as you know, better employees will help your company grow which in turn will attract even more all-star employees.

 

So here are my four Hiring Best Practices that you can use to assemble the best team possible.

 

1.Initial Paperwork: Job Description, Application and Background Authorization Forms – To get the right person for the job, you must be able to define the work that you want them to do. Having written job descriptions for each position is a critical. The job description can be used to promote the position opening as well. An application for employment that includes authorization forms for background checks, including driving record checks is the second part of the initial paperwork that you should have before you hire someone. Checking the applicant’s references and driving record should be one of the first things you do to assess their potential for employment with your company.

 

2. Interviews – I recommend that the interview process is done in three steps…

 

Start with a phone interview with a few predetermined questions. You can find out a lot of great information about the applicant before you spend any more time on them by simple talking to them over the phone first. Two things that you will notice immediately with a phone interview are the punctuality of the applicant and how prepared they are. Do they answer right away or does it go to voicemail? You will be able to tell if they are driving (risky behavior?) or sitting in a quiet area. Ask questions to gauge their devotion to safety and how important it is to them as well as what their past experiences are.

 

If they pass the initial phone interview, schedule an in-person interview with the hiring manager and one of the potential crew leaders. Having two people in on each interview helps protect your company for any he said/she said arguments that may arise if an individual isn’t hired by your company.

 

The last interview should be an informal group interview where the applicant gets to meet some of the crew members that they would be working with to learn how their personalities will fit with your current team. The hiring manager and crew leader should not be present during this time so the applicant feels secure to be him or herself. The best way to facilitate this is to have the applicant drive out to a job site for a quick lunch with the crew. It is very obvious who will fit in with your culture and who will not during an informal interview like this.

 

3. Physical Testing – After the applicant passes each of the interviews, it is time to see if they have the physical skills and capabilities necessary to perform the job. This can include having them do a skills test for knot tying, chainsaw knowledge or a climbing test. Perhaps you want to see their tree ID skills or plant health care knowledge. A driving test with one of your larger trucks and trailers is also a great idea to complete at this stage of the hiring process. Lastly, have the applicant go into your local Occupational Health Clinic for a pre-employment physical or ergonomic assessment. This is imperative step to make sure you are not hiring a Work Comp claim!

 

One very important thing to note on pre-employment testing is that no matter what skills you test for, make sure they are directly related to the job they will be performing.

 

4. Post Hire On-Boarding – After the applicant has made it through all of the interviews and pre-employment testing, you must make sure the beginning of their employment goes smoothly. This is the time to establish a fantastic start to their career with your organization. Having a proper new employee training and on-boarding procedure is very important in giving that new team member the best attention right away.

 

If any of this seems overwhelming remember the goal is to hire the best person possible. I’m sure you have hired someone you shouldn’t have just because you needed another body on your team. Looking back at that, it is usually easy to see how you spent a lot more time and money on that person than you would have if you spent your time finding the right fit for your team. I guarantee you won’t regret starting to implement these best practices into your hiring process the next time you need to add someone.

Written by: Eric Petersen