How to Maximize a Loss Control Visit

How to Maximize A Loss Control Visit

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

What feeling do you get when you learn that your insurance company wants to do a loss control visit with your tree care company? Hopefully a loss control visit would be met with high expectations of a collaborative relationship between your organization and the insurance company, however, we’ve found that most tree care owners are skeptical and even worried about what will happen during the visit. These feelings of skepticism and worry are completely normal and why I wanted to write this article.  

First, let’s talk about what a loss control visit  really is and why the insurance company would want to perform one. Simply put, a loss control visit is a meeting between a tree care company and the insurance company to learn more about the tree care company. The majority of the time this is an in-person meeting that happens at the office or shop of the tree care company and might continue in the field at one or two job sites. Loss control visits could also be done over the phone in certain circumstances. 

There are a few different reasons for the visit, but the underlying theme is to help the tree care company reduce the risk of injuries and accidents within their company. They also can be utilized by the insurance company to help in pricing of the insurance policy and where to guide the tree service for improvement. Sometimes the visit is set up before the insurance company even issues a quote for coverage or after you’ve had a large accident or claim. 

Unfortunately, most people have heard a  story or experienced a loss control visit that wasn’t productive or collaborative which has lead to the common skepticism and worry about these visits. Too often, these visits can be pencil whipping check box visits where the loss control rep is just checking items off a list without offering much help or guidance. 

One key to remember is you are already paying for loss control services with the premium that you pay for the insurance coverage. Whether it is your General Liability, Property, Auto or Work Compensation company that is doing the visit with you, their loss control services are already built into the price that you’re paying. 

So to help you get the most out of your next loss control visit, I’ve come up with these 6 tips. 

  1. Understand the Purpose of Visit – When asked by the insurance company to set up the visit, ask for clarification on what the insurance company wants from visit. If they are looking to learn about a specific part of your operation or the equipment you use? Perhaps they want to help mitigate any fire hazards in your shop? Whatever it is, understanding the insurance company’s purpose will set the meeting up for success and allow you to engage them in helpful conversations around those topics. 
  2. Who, How Long and Where – Along with understanding the purpose of the visit make sure to ask who will be performing the visit, how long they expect the meeting to take and where they would like to go.
  3. Make it Your Priority – Sometimes schedules don’t align perfectly, but as the leader of your organization, making the loss control visit your priority is vital. If your insurance company is coming to help your company out don’t you want to be the one to hear what they have to say and offer the appropriate information to them? 
  4. Engage your Agent – Some insurance companies are better at informing or involving their agents in the loss control process. That said, many times your agent won’t know that the visit has been scheduled, so whenever you get asked to have a visit done, contact your agent to discuss it with them. They may be able to join you for the visit or at the very least help you before or afterward the meeting. Remember they are your advocate to the insurance company and will be able to help during this process. 
  5. Be Prepared – Before the representative comes to visit with you, inform your team and ask if they have any questions they’d like you to bring up during the visit. Chances are no one on your team will say anything, but by asking them, you are including them in the process and helping to foster the safety culture you desire to have. You also should think about the insurance company’s purpose for the visit and what information you can get from them to benefit you the most in that area. 
  6. Keep an Open Mind – Lastly, please remember to keep an open mind with the objective of the meeting and with the loss control representatives themselves. I wish all representatives would “wow” their clients with their experience, knowledge and charm however, reality is they do not know the inner workings of your business as well as you do and while some representatives may get into preaching or even scolding mode, check your emotions to not take what they are saying personally or worse close off to them. Take the helpful nuggets from the representative that you can use and politely offer a different vantage point to them if needed and when appropriate. 

 Like most of the advice we give to tree care companies, the more prepared you are for a loss control visit the more successful the visit will be and the further ahead your company will be for it. With practice and attention to the bigger picture of loss prevention and risk reduction, loss control visits can become an integral part of your company’s success. 

Crisis Management

Crisis Management

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

It seems like you can find a story about a business in crisis almost every day now. Whether it is a local social media crisis or a national news story, the businesses going through those events must handle them appropriately for their businesses to survive. 

At the TCIA Winter Management Conference  in Puerto Vallarta, we learned from Tara Goodwin, founder of Goodwin Consulting and Crisis Interception, Inc. on how a tree service can prepare themselves to be able to respond appropriately and decisively if they find themselves in a crisis situation. Because most of the attendees that I talked to about this presentation had not done any pre-crisis planning before I felt it would be a great topic to summarize for you in this article. 

Tara’s ultimate message to successfully navigate a crisis situation was to be prepared and have a built-in process for handling the situation. Every crisis will have high emotions and being able to default to a set process goes a long way in navigating the situation smoothly. 

Her first suggestion was to create a crisis team. This is a group of trusted advisors and business leaders that will need to take action or give advice during the crisis. The team will contain people from inside your organization; company president, director of operations, marketing director, safety director for example and from outside your organization; insurance agent, corporate attorney, public relations consultant, etc. Assemble your crisis team now by asking them to be included and ensuring you have access to them whenever you need them. 

After you have your crisis team in place it’s time to create your response protocol. This starts by understanding when you need to act. There are four questions that Tara suggests you ask yourself to determine if the situation you’re facing deserves the crisis management attention. 

  1. Will the people that matter to our organization expect us to do or say something?
  2. Will silence be seen as guilt or indifference?
  3. Are any others speaking out about the situation?
  4. If we wait, will we lose the ability to respond?

If you answer Yes to any of those questions you must act on the situation. 

When creating your protocol you should outline the steps that you and your team need to go through, beginning with assessing the situation. Gather the fact about the situation and notify the key personnel involved and assemble your crisis team. Together as a team you need to determine what your options for response are and decide upon which response plan will be utilized. Before a response is made, make sure to prepare the materials or information that will be needed and appoint a spokesperson to funnel all outside communication to. The crisis team should remain in consistent communication to give feedback to the spokesperson so they are prepared for any updates that may be brought to them. 

 Once you (hopefully) successfully navigate the crisis get the crisis team back together and evaluate how everything went and make adjustments to your protocol in case you need it in the future. 

If you’re still reading this, I commend you and encourage you to take a couple of hours and prepare your company for the unthinkable as it just might save your company from ruin.

Stop Work Authority Policy

Stop Work Authority Policy

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Being able to effectively communicate is one of the most important skills that successful people possess. It’s why it is no surprise that it is also the foundation for a great safety culture. Effective communication requires both the sender of the information and the receiver to become actively engaged in what is being discussed. 

So how can you help encourage effective communication within your team while improving your safety culture? 

Implement a Stop Work Authority policy. 

A Stop Work Authority policy is a procedure that gives everyone on the jobsite the authority to stop the work being conducted due to an unsafe act or new unforeseen condition that has developed without fear of punishment or retaliation for stopping the work. Obviously, if everyone is empowered to be able to speak up and prevent a dangerous situation from getting worse, everyone on the team wins. However, implementing a Stop Work Authority policy does take some strategic moves to ensure it is successful.  

  1. Develop a Clear Policy – Create a written policy outlining the purpose of the policy, what circumstances under which employees are authorized to stop work and how they can stop the work being done. This does not have to be a lengthy section in your safety manual, but it should be in writing so that management can stress the importance of it and everyone can be trained on it.
  2. Communication – Ironically, when trying to improve communication and better the safety culture within your team, many tree care companies fail at properly communicating a Stop Work Authority policy to their team. Actually train all of your team members on your policy. Ensure they understand their responsibility to stop work if they identify any potential hazards or unsafe conditions and that they will not get in trouble when they do speak up. 
  3. Documentation – To further the impact of a stopped job across your organization, implement a process for documenting stop work incidents, including the reason for the stoppage, actions taken to address the issue, and any follow-up measures. Discuss this report at your next safety meeting so everyone in your organization can learn from it.
  4. Review & Refresh – Take time at least once per year to review and refresh the Stop Work Authority policy to ensure it remains effective as your company grows and evolves. Again, this doesn’t have to be a lengthy policy, but the impact that it has on your safety culture is immense, so make sure you are focusing on this fairly regularly.

Implementing a Stop Work Authority Policy within your tree care company will help improve communication within your team and more importantly, help avoid serious accidents from happening. If you are struggling with improving your safety culture or just are not sure if you’re doing everything that you can to get every employee home safe each night, reach out to an ArboRisk team member today to get started with our Thrive Safety Package today.

Elements of a Safety Program

Elements of a Safety Program

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Most tree care companies have a written safety program or Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) in place, however, we often get asked, do we have everything we should in our written document? The answer, of course, depends on the specific operations of your company, however, this article highlights the six general elements that you want to include in your written safety program.

Commitment to Safety and Assignment of Responsibilities

We all know that the commitment to a safe workplace must start at the top, with all levels of ownership and management. Your written safety program should contain a clear and concise statement of how important safety is to the leadership of the company. This section will also outline the fact that the responsibility of a safe workplace falls on everyone in the organization and that everyone will be encouraged and expected to report unsafe conditions when they see them. It is in this section that you should mention that your organization will adhere to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z133 Safety Requirements for Arboricultural Operations. 

Safety Communication System

The next section of your written safety program should focus on how safety will be communicated throughout your organization. This is the place to outline the foundation of your Safety Meetings and your Safety Committee. You should also make note of the training that will be provided to your team, not only for new employees, but what training will be done on an on-going basis. 

Safety Rules and Work Procedures

This section will start to get into specifics on the type of conduct your team is expected to have, what good shop housekeeping looks like as well as the appropriate usage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). You can use this section to address weather related exposures such as rain, ice, snow, dangerous temperatures both heat and cold (if applicable). We also recommend putting your driving and fleet safety rules in this section. Setting the expectation for getting to and from the jobsite safely and how the company will monitor driving records is a very important part of this document. Make sure to include language on Fall Protection along with how a team member will be disciplined for violating a safety rule.  

Hazard Assessment and Control

In this section, you will want to state how your team assesses the hazards that they face on each jobsite. Your jobsite setup and briefing procedure is an integral part of this section. You can also focus on specific equipment that you use or special procedures that may be unique to your company here. 

Incident Reporting and Accident Analysis

Creating clear incident reporting and accident analysis procedures is part of this section. Here you want to identify the responsibilities of each person involved in an accident and give guidance on what information must be gathered at the time of the incident. You should also include how your company will handle employee injuries from a Return to Work/Light Duty standpoint as well as what the follow up will be when a safety violation or incident has occurred. 

Documentation and Employee Acknowledgement 

The final element that your written safety program needs is a procedure for documentation and record keeping for all of the safety items. Along with the documentation expectation, you should have each employee sign an acknowledgement form showing that they have been trained on the document and that they understand their responsibility for their own and their team’s safety. 

It’s important to note that your written safety program doesn’t need to follow this exact format, but should contain these elements at a minimum. If you’d like more help with your written safety program, contact an ArboRisk team member today and get signed up for our Thrive Safety Package. We will work with you one-on-one to help you develop the best written safety program possible and boost the safety culture of your organization.

All about Apprenticeship: Q&A

All About Apprenticeship: Q&A

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Responses from August Hoppe and Josh Morin

By now, most tree care owners have heard of someone within the industry utilizing apprenticeships for their employee recruitment and development, but I know there are still a lot of questions out there surrounding this topic.

For this week’s tip, I was honored to interview two of the most influential and knowledgeable tree care owners on apprenticeships, August Hoppe of Hoppe Tree Service in Milwaukee, WI and Josh Morin of We Love Trees in Niwot, CO. They both gave some fantastic answers as well as very practical guidance for tree care companies wanting to explore this further.

Q – Are tree care apprenticeships here to stay or just a fad?

August – I believe, they are here to stay for sure, and only growing. Companies that use the program see the success and keep adding more employees into it. It’s a snowball effect. In Wisconsin, we hardly have to promote the program anymore, companies just keep adding enrollees.

Josh – In my view our society and our country is embracing models of learning and career preparation that allow you to earn money while you learn, instead of the traditional academic model which has many of our young people in a lot of debt. From what I hear from young people is that they don’t want to screw themselves with unnecessary debt, and they want meaningful work with a viable career path that will give them options in the future that isn’t a dead end. In my experience Arborist apprenticeship offers this. Will they last? We’ll see.

Q – What are the benefits you’ve personally seen with making apprenticeship a part of your tree care company’s recruiting strategy?

August – We have seen more and higher quality candidates that truly want a career, not just a job.

Josh – The challenge and bottleneck for growth for many businesses in our industry has been attracting people that are interested, willing and capable of doing the work. Apprenticeship which offers a structured learning process and incremental growth plan is attractive to a different type of person. It attracts people that understand that they will have to work hard and learn along the way, but they will get something out of it in return that will be valuable to them in the future.
Our industry has a diversity opportunity, so anything we can do to speak to more people of diverse backgrounds increases the size of the funnel of people we are recruiting into our industry.

Q – Can you attribute a dollar amount of growth your company has seen to the successful implementation of the apprenticeship within your company?

August – It’s hard to put a $ sign on culture or branding. But apprenticeship has definitely helped our employees understand that they are true professionals and they carry themselves that way. It gives them confidence and pride. Customers see that every day and want to work with companies that are excellent.

Josh – I also cannot attribute a dollar amount of growth, but I can say that attracting people who want to learn and grow is fundamental to the growth of a successful business.

Q – What are some of the challenges that tree care companies run into when starting down the apprenticeship path and how can they avoid some of them?

August – It’s scary to start as it seems like a lot of work with a lot of processes. But just like anything else in life, hard work pays off when it’s completed.

Josh – The owner and leaders of the company need to believe in the model and understand that investing in training and educating their employees is a company value and is of value to their company.

If the leadership of the company does not believe in the model of apprenticeship and does not see the benefit, then they will not be interested in investing in the related learning that is required with an apprenticeship program.

Q – How much of the business owner’s time is involved in setting up the apprenticeship and maintaining it?

August – It depends on each organization. I would recommend a business owner stays involved in setting up the program, but larger outfits may be able to delegate to an HR or training and safety manager for maintaining it once the business processes are figured out. At Hoppe Tree, we use a committee approach with a few staff members responsible for different parts of the apprenticeship program, including myself.

Josh – In my experience, setting up the apprenticeship program in terms of paperwork is fairly easy and takes a few hours, then, having an administrative person, sit down with the apprentice and explain the program and register them in the database. The challenge can be working the related learning into your business model. We try to schedule this classroom time during slower periods of business like in the winter.

Q – What would be your top piece of advice to tree care company owners regarding apprenticeship?

August – It’s a great way to train your employees in a consistent manner. It can improve culture, it helps with retention of employees, it leads to better recruitment, and also it helps our whole industry become more professional. Can you imagine what our industry will be like when we have 100,000 journey worker arborists?! Please get on board with this!

Josh – I recommend taking on the apprenticeship program with the goal of starting with one employee, and getting them through the program successfully and approaching the process as an experiment, and with curiosity so that you can learn as much as possible along the way, and figure out how, and if apprenticeship really lines up with the needs of your company and its people.


Thank you, August and Josh, for your time and passion in leading this very important and exciting development in the tree care industry! For more information on apprenticeships, check out the following resources: