What Really Is Light Duty?

What Really Is Light Duty?

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

I’m sure you’ve heard your insurance agent talk about the importance of having a Light Duty or Return to Work policy in place at your company (if your agent hasn’t talked to you about this, you probably should call us at ArboRisk, wink wink), but what does that really mean?

In short, a Light Duty policy is a risk management tool designed to keep an injured employee at work and productive which minimizes the impact of the workplace injury for both the employee and the business. It is a written policy that outlines the responsibilities of the employer and the injured employee after an injury occurs. 

There are many benefits to having a written Light Duty policy which include:

For the Employee

  • Full Income – Even though the injured employee will not be doing tasks that they were hired for, they will retain the same level of pay that they were getting before the injury.
  • Guaranteed Work – The employee does not have to worry if they will have a job after an injury. The Light Duty policy guarantees that they will still have the ability to work their normal hours. 
  • Remaining Part of the Team – The emotional aspect of an injury can definitely take a toll on someone. With a Light Duty policy in place the injured employee remains part of the team and can still feel productive. 
  • Faster Recovery Time – No one wants to be hurt for a long period of time, so if the injured employee follows the recommended restrictions and does not overstress their body during the recovery time, they will heal faster. Doing tasks at work that may not be their favorite activity helps the employee take recovery more seriously to heal faster.

For the Employer

  • Reduced Work Comp Expense – If the employee stays at home and collects their wages from the Work Comp insurance company, that will obviously create a much larger claim and therefore increase the cost of the future Work Comp policies.
  • Gain Back Some Productivity – While the employee may not be performing the exact duties they were doing before the injury, the employer can still get production out of that employee. Every tree care company has a list of things they want to accomplish on a rain day or a snow day. Many times these items just remain on the list that someday they’ll get to. Use the Light Duty policy to get those items taken care of. 
  • Faster Recovery Time – When an injured employee is doing tasks that they normally do not do, they typically will take their healing/recovery more seriously so they can get back out to work doing the job they love. Faster recovery time means a tremendous amount of savings to the employer.


The written policy should also include what happens to the employee if they reject the light or modified duty so that everyone knows what to expect when they are injured. This can be a very important piece if the injured employee is trying to stay at home and just collect from the Work Comp insurance company. 

To make a Light Duty policy defensible in court, I recommend having each employee sign an acknowledgement form stating that they understand what is included in the policy and why it is important for them and the company. 

Make sure that you have a copy of your Light Duty policy and a list of light duty activities in each truck right next to your injury reporting form so that the injured employee can take that policy and list with them to the very first doctor’s appointment. You want to make sure that the very first treating physician knows there is light duty available so they don’t needlessly issue a restriction prohibiting the employee from working at all for a designated period of time. 

If you are struggling on coming up with a list of light duty activities start by thinking about your shop wish list or weather day list. From there start to get creative with what tasks an individual can do for themselves (think online training or volunteering) or for your company (assembling safety manuals, researching safety meeting topics, sharpening chainsaws, etc). Every tree care company has light duty available, you just have to put some conscious thought to it.

Of course, if you would like one-on-one help in creating a Light Duty Policy, please reach out to an ArboRisk team member or sign up directly for the Thrive Safety Package.

Why You Need D&O Insurance

Why You Need D&O Insurance

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Sure, you know that being a business owner is risky, but do you know you could get sued personally for the decisions you make for your company? Unfortunately, business owners of privately held companies can find themselves in a lawsuit from a business decision they made on behalf of their own company. Fortunately, you can protect yourself and the other officers of your company with a Directors & Officers Insurance policy. 

Often referred to as a D&O policy, this coverage is typically associated with large publicly held companies or non-profits, however every private company has some exposure that a D&O policy can protect against. 

A D&O policy is a liability policy designed to protect the personal assets of the directors and officers of a company if they are sued by interested parties for actual or alleged wrongful acts in managing the company. Employees, vendors, competitors, investors, or customers all could bring a case against the directors of a tree service for a decision or series of decisions that they make on behalf of the company. 

The D&O policy pays for defense costs that the directors incur as well as any damages that are awarded as long as the lawsuit wasn’t from an illegal act. There are a number of reasons a director could be sued individually, however a few of the more common are:

  • Decisions that lead to financial loss or bankruptcy
  • Overstating company’s financial strength or assets
  • Poor use of company funds
  • Lack of company oversight (corporate governance)
  • Failure to comply with workplace safety and employee management laws

In today’s world there is more focus on personal accountability and more and more people are attempting to hold business leaders accountable for their actions. This happens not only from an employee or investor standpoint, but also from the customers and other competitors if the neglect is bad enough where they can show how they were financially damaged from the tree service owner’s decision or lack of action. 

Tree care companies experiencing rapid growth also are subjected to greater exposure from these types of lawsuits as they navigate their way through all of the change that their company is going through. Most business owners have not been through rapid growth before and certainly make mistakes along the way. Sometimes those mistakes end up hurting others financially. 

D&O policies have a number of coverages that can be included in the policy. For instance, many D&O policies will give have the option to include Employment Practices Liability for hiring/firing, discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits. You may also be able to purchase Fiduciary coverage to protect the person in charge of the retirement account and company funds. Some D&O policies will also include Crime coverage, protecting the business from theft of funds or company assets.

Because each D&O policy is unique, make sure you talk through your concerns with your insurance agent or reach out to an ArboRisk team member today. If you are struggling with developing a risk management program for your company, check out our Thrive New Heights Risk Management Package today!

How Industry Credentials Help Lower Insurance Cost

How Industry Credentials Help Lower Insurance Cost

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

One of the most common questions that I get asked is “Eric, how do I lower my insurance cost?”. While there are many factors that go into the pricing of an insurance policy, it really all boils down to one thing:profit for the insurance company. The insurance company needs to make a profit to be able to deliver on their promise; to pay for insurance claims that their policyholders experience. 

To provide the lowest insurance rates possible, an insurance company must feel confident that they will make a profit on a given tree care company. It is the responsibility of the tree care company to prove why they deserve the insurance company’s confidence and how they will not have claims in the future. When the insurance company understands who the tree care company is and the internal risk management practices that they are consistently performing, then they will offer the best rates possible. Unfortunately, most insurance companies and agents don’t understand the tree care industry enough to ask the right questions and, without intentional communication about the credentials and the expertise of the tree care company, the insurance company just goes off of general answers to general questions.

Developing a good relationship with the insurance company and an agent is crucial in getting a good rate and coverage. Additionally, looking for insurance companies that understand the profession and specialize in it is also helpful. 

Before we get into how you position yourself to the insurance company, I want to explain a bit more about the insurance company. The insurance company makes a profit either by collecting more premium from their policyholders than what they have to pay out in claims plus their operating expenses or by using the premium dollars to make investment gains before they need to pay their policyholder’s claims. 

Historically, insurance companies in the United States need about forty percent (40%) of your insurance premium just to cover their operating expenses, which leaves sixty percent (60%) left to pay for actual claims. Because the insurance companies cannot exactly predict the future, they use volumes of data to try and estimate the amount they will pay in future claims and price their policies accordingly. Unfortunately, data not only comes from professional tree care companies, but also illegitimate businesses and homeowner’s trying to do tree work themselves. This can create an unbalanced approach to pricing the insurance policy for a professional tree care company if they don’t provide specific information on their business to the insurance company. 

To truly control your insurance cost, you must provide proof to the insurance company on why you are different from the masses and why you will not have as many claims as others. Help the insurance company see what risk management practices you are performing so they can offer the lowest insurance premium to you. 

Whenever possible, I recommend ensuring that you discuss the following three points with your insurance agent. 

1. Industry Credentials – The most important data that helps insurance companies predict future losses for tree care companies is the experience and knowledge level of the people inside the business. I have not met one arborist who does not believe that their past work experience makes them a very safe insurance risk, however, their personal belief about themselves and their company does not go far with the insurance company. This is why credentials from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and other industry organizations are vital to receiving the lowest insurance pricing. Showing what ISA credentials you and your teammates have is the foundation for building trust and confidence with the insurance company. A credential from the world’s largest arboricultural association shows the insurance company that you are a serious professional and company, who wants to perform tree work correctly and continue to learn by keeping the credential valid. Insurance companies want to see that you are committed to professionalism within your trade. Ensure your insurance company knows how many ISA Certified Arborists®, ISA Board Certified Master Arborists®, ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification holders, ISA Certified Tree Worker Climber and Aerial Lift Specialists® you have on staff and what percentage of your crew has a professional credential. 

2. Internal Risk Management – In addition to industry credentials that you and your teammates possess, make sure you provide copies of the written programs and policies that you have in place that help minimize accidents and injuries. Insurance companies want to see that you have a training and development plan for each employee, written safety program, policies on driving record management and vehicle usage and jobsite assessments in place. These risk management practices enhance the insurance company’s confidence in your company, bettering your chances of receiving the lowest insurance price possible. 

3. Special Insurance Programs – In the United States,there are a handful of insurance companies that only work with tree care companies that have an ISA Certified Arborist on staff. It is their first qualifier for coverage as they understand what the credential means and how it relates to maintaining a profitable business. Make sure you ask your agent if there are any insurance companies that they work with that will only allow professional tree care companies into their client portfolio. 

Don’t let the insurance company make assumptions about your business when they are pricing your insurance coverage. Control the narrative by providing them with the data that will help them understand how you can help them make a profit by having less claims in the future.

Taking risk management seriously will help you build a stronger company that will be more resistant to negative situations that arise. If you are struggling with developing a risk management program for your company, please reach out to an ArboRisk team member or sign up for our Thrive New Heights Risk Management Package today!

Simplify Risk Management

Simplify Risk Management

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Whether you’ve been following ArboRisk for a while or are fairly new to our weekly business tip, you’ve probably noticed that we like to talk about Risk Management a lot! The main reason is that while as a concept it is fairly easy; the process of preventing or minimizing injuries and accidents, in practice it can feel overwhelming at times. 

In this article, I will give a way to simplify risk management for your tree care company so you are prepared before something bad happens. 

With your leadership team, take each of the categories below and think about each of them as they pertain to your business. Think about what could go wrong in those areas and what could be (or is currently being) done to minimize the risk. I have included examples inside of each category to help you get started. 


Five Categories of Risk for your Tree Care Company:

1. Other People – How can other people affect your business? Think about your customers, the general public, state and federal governments. Common exposures result from injury or property damage to others, lawsuits and penalties and fines. 

Ex: Customer – their property is damaged while working on their tree in their yard. 

Risk Management Solution: Create/review job briefing to ensure proper jobsite set up to minimize property damage while the work is being done.

2. Your People – How can your people affect your business? Think about your employees and subcontractors that you work with. What happens when they get injured, leave unexpectedly or file an employment lawsuit against you? 

Ex: Employee – a group of employees decide to leave your company unexpectedly to start their own business. 

Risk Management Solution: Create a career path to show employees how they can advance within your company to build loyalty. 

3. Your Stuff – What physical assets does your business own? Think about your shop, equipment, tools, your brand, etc. 

Ex: Building – fire or tornado damages your shop building 

Risk Management Solution: Purchase an insurance policy with property limits to cover the building and all items inside. Make an inventory list to assist in the recovery process.

4. Your Vehicle(s) – What vehicles and trailers does your company own or use? Think about all vehicles including rented trucks and employee’s vehicles. 

Ex: Flood – major storm enters your area and floods your yard which damages vehicles

Risk Management Solution: Create an emergency plan to move vehicles to a safe spot before the storm hits your area. 

5. Yourself – What could happen to your business if you, the owner, are not around or not physically able to do everything that you do for the business? Think about each of your responsibilities and how someone else would have to take them on for the business to continue.

Ex: Disability – a work related injury causes you to be physically unable to work for 3 months

Risk Management Solution: Create an internal employee development plan that teaches certain team members how to do the physical tasks that you are responsible for.


And this list is the start to your risk management program! 

If you want to dig into it deeper, you can rank each risk that you have listed from the most likely to happen to the least likely to happen. It also may help to put a severity rating on them; something that is most likely to happen, that has potentially severe results, should be dealt with right away. A severe auto accident is an example of this type of risk to your company. For more information on categorizing each risk, read our article on Insurance is NOT Risk Management to find a risk matrix. 

After you have the risks ranked, delegate each of them to your team members to begin to manage. This is now the beginning of your risk management plan! The only thing left to do is to set a follow up time for your leadership team to circle back on these items to ensure they get taken care of or to make adjustments where needed.

Taking risk management seriously will help you build a stronger company that will be more resistant to negative situations that arise. If you are struggling with developing a risk management program for your company, please reach out to an ArboRisk team member or sign up for our Thrive New Heights Risk Management Package today!

Succession Planning

Succession Planning

Written by Kevin Martlage

The great Mark Twain once wrote, “Plan for the future because that is where you are going to spend the rest of your life.” This quote embodies what I feel is a key point when you think about the importance of succession planning. Without properly planning for the future from a personnel standpoint you may still be successful, but can you sustain that success when unforeseen, or even planned, circumstances or opportunities arise?

My personal definition of succession planning has been developed over 25+ years of leadership roles in both the for-profit and non-profit setting. While I have worked with some very specific succession planning processes like the one we used at FedEx Office, I have also had to develop my own when the organization I worked for did not have anything specifically outlined. Regardless of the process used or my thoughts behind succession planning, there is one key aspect that makes it one of the most important things you will do as a business owner. That one aspect is sustainability. 

Throughout my career leading 100’s of employees and volunteers both domestically and internationally, I have created a process for succession planning that is based on the intentional development of my team as they continue to advance the strategic direction of the organization. Specifically, that definition is:

“Succession planning is an intentional leadership development process that ensures 

Strategic, operational sustainability and growth for any organization or team.”

So that is my definition of succession planning, but why is succession planning important and something you should consider? If I completed an informal survey of the tree care industry regarding issues impacting the sustainability of each company, I can almost guarantee that employee retention and development would be in the top 3. Additionally, I would argue that other things keeping Tree Care company owners up at night, besides revenue and finances, is what happens if someone calls in sick, decides to leave my company for another job, or that tenured employee decides to finally retire? Who are we going to promote as we introduce our new service offering, or who’s taking over for me when I decide to retire? All valid questions that typically are not addressed until one of those things happens. All those reasons listed are why succession planning is important and should be carefully considered when running your business. 

If you do succession planning research online, you will find numerous definitions and approaches to the process. However, you will quickly notice themes to succession planning, regardless of your approach, that must be in place. Those themes include:

  • A formal process to evaluate your team
  • Understanding the critical positions necessary to sustain operations
  • The ability to identify key skills necessary for each of those position
  • Intentional commitment to aligning individual skills with your strategic direction
  • A process to intentionally and transparently develop your team to ensure critical positions and skills are maintained should someone leave or get promoted
  • An intentional commitment to excellence and to the process 

To start the development of your organizational succession plan, I would recommend you begin with the creation of an organizational chart for your company. If you already have one, great. If you do not have one, you can easily create one using Power Point or simply draw it out on a white board or piece of paper. This visualization will help you in seeing your organization from a holistic viewpoint and will allow you to facilitate the next part of the discussion. 

Next, I recommend you identify a few key aspects of each position you have outlined. To help facilitate this part of the conversation, a best practice is to bring in a third-party consultant or trusted advisor to help ensure confidentiality, transparency, and consistency in the conversation. This will also allow you as the business owner to remain impartial and critical as you discuss the following for each position:

  • Length of time in position
  • Top 3 skills
  • Potential position vacancy in the next 6-12 months
  • Ability and desire or that person to be promoted to the next level

Those last 2 questions may be difficult for you, or your leadership team, to answer and will involve some level of confidentiality and intentional conversations as you assess your team regarding those areas. However, they are critical pieces of the overall process for you to consider as you continue to create your success plan. When evaluating those last 2 areas, I recommend considering the following criteria:

  • Position vacancy in the next 6-12 months
    • Is the employee on performance management or at risk of losing their job?
    • Are they well placed in their current position?
    • Will the position be vacated by the person being promoted internally?
    • Are they ready for and eligible for a promotion within the company?
    • Is there potential for them to leave the company for another position?
  • Ability, opportunity, and desire to be promoted to the next level
    • Do they want to be promoted?
    • Are they ready to be promoted to the next level?
    • Are they well placed in their current position?
    • Do you foresee them filling the next level position within your company?
    • Is there an opportunity for upward advancement within your company?

Once you have identified these areas for each member of your team, you will start to identify some gaps or opportunities for focus to ensure proper succession planning is in place. This process can take some time to go through, but it is critical as you continue to plan for the strategic sustainability of your team. 

As you identify those opportunity areas, the next step would be to plan how you will address and fill those gaps to ensure sustainability. This can be done through strategic hiring of new employees, creating employee development action plans, and having critical conversations with the team. For suggestions on how to develop these follow up pieces of your plan, I would recommend you reference the following Arborisk Articles I have previously written:

  • “Outlining a Career Path for Your Team”  – January 2022
  • “Building Trust with Intentional and Transparent Communication” – May 2022
  • “Reaching New Heights by Planting a Tree” – September 2022

Creating a succession plan and critically assessing your team and company will help to ensure operational sustainability. This will also strategically prepare you for any upcoming scheduled service disruptions regarding personnel, as well as be flexible and prepared for the unforeseen. The items outlined in this article are provided to help you understand the importance of this process, but I would encourage you to also reach out to the Arborisk Team if you would be interested in discussing succession planning further. 

The Arborisk Thrive program provides helpful information regarding effective hiring, recruiting, on-boarding, leadership development, and succession planning.  Please check out the Risk Management Packages located on the Arborisk Insurance website to learn more. 

If you want your company’s leaders (managers, crew leads, etc.) to grow professional and truly become extraordinary, check out ArboRisk’s Thrive Leadership Development Package! Our experts will work with your leaders one-on-one to build their leadership skills, thereby increasing team loyalty, efficiency, and profitability.