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!

Using Fear to Sell Tree Work

USing Fear to Sell Tree Work

Have you ever used fear to get someone to buy tree work from you? Of course you have and while fear is an effective motivator for people to buy your services, sometimes it doesn’t feel the best. So, I want to share with you an easy, relatable way to sell professional tree care to your customers based on fear that you can be proud of.

Every Certified Arborist knows that proper care for a tree reduces risks of falling branches and tree failure due to storm damage, however many struggle with communicating that to their customers.

I believe the key to creating sales using fear as the motivator is to be realistic on what could happen and have statistics or real life examples of scenarios that could’ve been avoided had the property owner followed your professional advice.

Recently we had a severe storm blow through our area and one of our home owner insurance clients had a tree fall on their house. Fortunately, no one was hurt and their homeowners insurance policy is taking care of the repairs, but the tree that crashed through the roof of their living room was an Emerald Ash Borer infested Ash that should have been removed a year or two ago. This tree was too brittle to withstand the wind gusts that day and the homeowner, while lucky it wasn’t worse, was left with a huge disturbance to their lives that could have been prevented had a tree care company been able to get them to understand the danger of that tree.

Here are some numbers from this one tree failure that you can use when explaining the importance of proper tree care to your customers.

One month after the tree fell, the homeowner’s insurance claim already has paid out $23,858.19 and they are far from being done with the clean up. Immediately, they needed to get an entire new roof put on since the tree opened up a three foot diameter hole from which rainwater rushed into the living room. A restoration company had to come in and clean up the rainwater and mitigate for mold. There was significant internal structural damage to the walls and ceilings in that area of the house that have yet to be repaired.

The walls are currently being worked on, but it has now been thirty two days since our clients have lived in their home. They, along with their ten month old son and two dogs, are living with family members until the home is repaired to a safe condition. To make matters worse they had a family member’s car in their driveway at the time which also got hit and was totaled out by the insurance company.

All in all this tree failure will exceed $60,000 in damages and will take over two months to get the homeowner back to normal. Can your customers afford this type of disruption in their lives?

Use this example the next time someone refuses to listen to your professional advice about what to do with the tree in their yard.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Taking the ZZZ’s out of the Z133

Taking the ZZZ’s Out of the z133

Almost everyone that I talk to wants to improve upon their safety culture, no matter how good it is today. And most agree that the ANSI Z133 (or Z) should be handed out to every employee just like a pair of chaps and safety glasses. But the unfortunate reality is the Z gets left out of sight and out of mind in most tree services, because it is a 74 page document that is full of seemingly stuffy ‘shoulds’ and ‘shalls’.

Back in April, I was invited to attend the Z133 committee meeting in Baltimore as a guest. While I, like most tree care company owners, always understood the importance of this document, it wasn’t until this committee meeting that I finally grasped the simplicity of how to actually implement the Z into your daily routine within your tree care company. Below are four simple steps to engaging your team with the Z and propelling your safety culture forward.

Familiarize Yourself with the Z – Taking the Z seriously within your company has to start from the top with your knowledge and interest of the document. Grab the Z and flip through it. Learn how it is set up with the different sections and how the sections interact with each other. See where the Z references other safety requirements per OSHA or FMCSA.
Appoint a Champion for Each Section – Everyone in your organization has their own passion and excitement for the tree care industry. Use that passion to break up the Z and appoint a champion for each section. The section champions are responsible for understanding what is in their section and how your company can follow the requirements. When the section champions begin to feel responsible for safety items within their section they obviously will put more energy and effort into adhering to the requirement.

Track Close Calls Back to the Z – Many tree services already discuss close calls, but stop there. Take each close call and look back at the Z to see how the unsafe behavior or mistake could have been avoided and which specific line item addresses it. We have started to do this within our insurance agency for the claims that get submitted. In just a few months of tracking this, it is pretty amazing the patterns that we are seeing. It has helped us implement better loss control services for our clients. Any trends that you begin to see are obvious areas that your safety meetings should focus on.

Choose a Section Every Week – During your weekly safety meeting, choose a section or part of a section to go over. Have your team members read out loud each point and discuss it as you go using close calls to explain the importance of each point. Within a couple of months, you and your team will have gone through the entire Z and the document will have become part of your culture.

Use these four easy steps to take the Z from a boring document to an active part of ensuring every employee makes it home safe each night.

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: 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

3 Simple Ideas to Make Safety Personal

3 Simple Ideas to Make Safety Personal

Achieving a top notch safety culture within your organization is best done by making safety personal for each of your team members. I recently had a conversation with John Wayne Farber, Special Projects Manager for Hoppe Tree Service in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He shared with me a couple of ideas he recently learned about that I feel can be a powerful addition to your safety program. Here are three simple ideas that can make safety personal for every employee on your team.


1. This is Why I am Safe Patch – Tim Walsh from Davey Resource Group, shared this idea at the 2018 ISA Conference in Columbus, OH. They hand out a fabric sleeve that has a plastic window in it for their employees to slide a picture of someone or something that matters most to them. This sleeve has Velcro on the back so it can be attached to their gear, saddle, bag, etc. so there is a constant visual reminder of why they need to work safe.


2. Safety Picture Board – Inside the Columbia Energy Center a power plant located in Portage, Wisconsin, there is a picture board that employees put pictures of loved ones in. This board hangs on the entry way into the power plant. Seeing the faces of family members of all of their co-workers has made a huge impact on safe work practices. Being reminded that you are not only trying to be safe for your family, but also those of your co-workers puts safety even more at the forefront.


3. Safety Coins – Total Safety, a safety and compliance company located in Houston, Texas, gives every employee a heavy duty coin to keep in their pocket during the work day. The coin is a little larger than a half dollar and much heavier so the employee can feel it in their pocket as they walk around. You could use this idea by having each employee pick up a coin to start the day and drop it off at the end of the day. Any close calls or near misses can be jotted down when the coin is turned in for the night to help with the next tailgate safety meeting. (To read the article on their coin visit: https:/ /www.ehstoday.com/safety/total-safety-coins-safety-commitment)


Getting every employee home safe each night must be a priority for every tree care business. Doing that is easier when all employees feel personally attached to the importance of safety. There are a lot of great ideas out there to help build the safety culture that you desire, these are just three that I wanted to share with you. If you have others that you’ve seen work well, I’d love to have you share those with me and the rest of the tree care world. #untilwereallsafe

Written by: Eric Petersen