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

Five Tips for Safety Meetings


Blank stares? Crickets chirping?  Is that a couple of the things you experience in your safety meetings?  It’s tough – not only coming up with topics, but also delivering those topics in an interesting, engaging way.  Below are five tips to help keep your safety meetings topical and interesting.

1 – Have the meetings outside when possible.  We didn’t get into this industry because we like sitting behind a table staring at a screen.  We’re the outdoor, fresh air, active types.  This also allows you to more easily incorporate tip 2…

2 – Practice what you teach.  Don’t just talk about safety; practice it hands on with your crews participating.  If you’re talking about chainsaw safety, start one up and demonstrate using it properly.  Want to discuss traffic protection, have your team plan it and set it up.  Always practice with the items in your first aid kits.  As I’ve stated in a previous weekly tip, the middle of an emergency is no time to learn how to use a tourniquet or Israeli bandage.   And remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.  

3 – Change it up.   Following the same format meeting after meeting even SOUNDS boring.  Using published safety meeting materials is convenient; but using them every single meeting can result in your team losing interest or even dreading the meeting.  Alternate between published materials, hands-on training, team participation, different speakers, and even guest speakers.

4 – Don’t forget these topics.  

  • Driver safety – one of the largest exposures to risk within your tree care company comes from your vehicles on the road.  In fact, 38% of the insurance claims we see at ArboRisk are vehicle related.  
  • First Aid – Your First Aid/CPR training certificate is good for two years, but it’s a great idea to stay fresh on the various topics and to practice applying splints, tourniquets, compression bandages, etc.  
  • Identifying hazardous conditions in trees – It’s a good idea to have all crew members capable of recognizing the signs in trees that indicate potential hazards.
  • Hazardous materials safety – you can cover several topics from fuel to chemicals to PPE.

5 – Get CEUs.  Even if it’s only 15 minutes of training, CEU credits, especially with regular and frequent safety meetings, add up quickly.  Remind your credentialed team members that they earn CEUs with both ISA and TCIA for their safety training. CTSPs can get their credits for developing the training and instructing it, as well.

Finally, don’t forget to document all safety meetings with the topic, date, duration, presenter(s), and the names of those in attendance. This is extremely important in case you are ever inspected by OSHA.  It will also be needed when individuals apply for their CEU credits.

Hopefully, the above tips give you some reminders (or even some new ideas) for keeping your safety meetings topical and interesting.  These meetings are a crucial part of team building, developing and maintaining your culture of safety, and helping your tree care company become extraordinary!

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.

Written by: Margaret Hebert

Will You Watch Out for My Safety?

Will You Watch Out For My Safety?

“You don’t have to tell me that, I know what I’m doing.”

How many times have you caught yourself saying that to someone who is just trying to help?

I know I have done that more often than I’d like to admit. Especially when you are in a leadership position, it can be challenging to accept advice from one of your subordinates. However, this is the exact opposite reaction you should have if you want to promote a culture of trust and open communication within your company.

At TCIA’s 2019 Winter Management Conference, John Drebinger spoke on how safety is a benefit for your employees and how the owner or crew leader’s attitude plays the largest factor in the success of building a safety culture. For a company to truly build a great culture, all employees must feel comfortable to speak up when they see something that doesn’t seem right. If the owner or crew leader shuts down an employee by saying that they know what they should be doing, the chances of that employee ever saying something again are slim. As soon as that communication breaks down, your culture of mutual respect within your company takes a major hit and preventable accidents may occur.

There are many reasons, why people don’t say something including:

They don’t think something will happen.
They are uncomfortable speaking up.
They do not know how to point out an unsafe situation.
So what is the best way to avoid this breakdown in communication? Train yourself and your team members on how to bring up a safety concern as well as how to accept safety criticism from anyone on the team.

At your next safety meeting, start by asking individuals directly if they will look out for your safety. Speak directly at 3 or 4 of your team members to drive home the point that everyone should be looking out for each other. “John, will you look out for my safety? Bob, will you look out for my safety?”. And so on.

Giving your employees the authority to say something that could prevent an accident from happening will dramatically change the safety culture of your organization.

After you have given the authority to look out for everyone’s safety, provide your team with a few simple ways that employees can point out safety concerns comfortably.

“As you know” – One of the easiest ways for any team member to address another is to begin with this phrase. This technique doesn’t threaten the intelligence of the worker, but reminds them that they are working unsafely. Ex: As you know, you should be wearing your chaps, even for one small cut.

“I’m new, why are you doing it that way?” – Asking for advice is actually a great, innocent way of getting your point across to a veteran employee that their work practice is unsafe. It will stop them enough to realize they are setting a bad example and allow for a small moment of training between the two. Ex: Since I’m new to your crew, why did you set up the chipper in that manner?

“This one time, I…” – State how you had a close call by doing a similar unsafe act. Relating to your team member by stating that you have done the same unsafe act, but were lucky enough to not have an accident is a powerful way of helping that individual. Ex: This one time, I didn’t put on the chain break when bucking a log and my chain got caught in my chaps as I moved to the next limb.

After you have given a few examples of how to point out an unsafe act, you have to talk about the proper way to accept criticism regardless of who is giving it to you. Remember, the main reason you want a safe workplace is so everyone will make it home each night. Explain that checking your ego and saying thank you is much easier than taking an ambulance ride to the emergency room. Also, acknowledging that it may have been difficult for that team member to say something goes a long way to ensure they feel comfortable to say something again in the future.

Foster a culture of gratitude within your company by setting a great example for your team and training everyone on how to address and accept the advice instead of shutting it down.

For help building the best safety culture possible, contact the ArboRisk team today!

Written by: Eric Petersen