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

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 Steps to Creating a Culture of Safety

3 Simple Steps to Creating a Culture of Safety

No business owner wants to see their employees get hurt. The feeling is indescribable when one of your team members suffers an injury, no matter how large or small. Why is it then that so many business struggle to implement a culture of safety? I believe the main reason is that safety seems overwhelming. I want to give you 3 simple steps to grab a hold of that elusive culture of safety and begin to improve your business from the inside.


Ownership Commitment – The culture of any organization starts from the top. The owner and management must make a commitment to their team that working safely is preferred over working quickly. Understanding how safety pays off within your organization is critical. According to OSHA, an average muscle strain will cost the business almost $68,000 in direct and indirect costs! The small administrative cost and upfront expenses that you may have to spend to get the safety culture started are extremely minor compared to what happens when there is an injury.


Employee Engagement – Once this direction is set by the leaders of the company, they must make sure to get the employees aboard. The best way to do this is to establish a safety committee with representatives from all departments. Asking for volunteers is the most efficient way of getting the employees aboard with this. It is the Safety Committee’s job to lead by example when working safely, review or create the written safety policies, enforce the safety rules and act as the liaison between the front line employees and the management.


Open Communication – A culture of safety will not develop if the employees do not understand what is expected of them and given a platform to discuss any safety questions they have. The leadership of the organization must specifically state the intentions of the safety culture and allow for open communication regarding all aspects of safety. An employee must feel secure enough in his or her job that they can talk freely about a close call or near miss without fear of repercussion.

Written by: Eric Petersen