Plant Health Care Safety Tips

Plant Health Care Safety Tips

It is always important to wear your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), however, working with chemicals in Plant Health Care (PHC), is another story. As a tree care owner, you must make sure your PHC team takes PPE’s seriously. Here are some helpful safety tips to pass onto your PHC team.

Change of Clothes Keep at least one change of clothes in the vehicle. A change of clothes can make a difference in having to wear the original clothing/shoes that you may have spilled chemicals on during the course of the day home. Place your change of clothing in a sealed plastic bag, when it is time to go home put your chemical residue clothing in the bag and wear the clean clothing/shoes home. Remember to wash your hands after touching your chemical residue clothing. Also wash your chemical residue clothing by itself, do not mix wash your chemical residue clothing with your spouse or children’s clothing.

Gloves – It is imperative, that you wear chemical resistant gloves. When you take them off be sure to wash your hands (a disinfectant wipe can be used for this if in the field). If you don’t wash your hands, popping a candy in your mouth, smoking a cigarette, eating lunch, etc. becomes a game of Russian Roulette – what chemical am I going to taste today. Above all after washing your hands, do not touch your clothing again. Clean your gloves every night – you don’t want to put the gloves on with chemicals from the day before on them. Make sure your gloves go up to at least mid-forearm. If a chemical spills and reaches over the top of the gloves – change your shirt.

Long Sleeve Shirt and Pants – Simply put wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants will protect you from chemical burns on your skin. However, those clothes must be changed right away if you spill any chemical onto your clothes, as the chemical will soak into the fabric and then your skin.

Safety Goggles and Helmet – No one wants to lose their vision due to a chemical splash. So wearing googles are another must wear when working with chemicals. Ensure they fit tightly around your eyes. Your safety helmets also is important in protecting your scalp from the chemical and from blunt trauma that may happen with a broken hose or a slip and fall on a hard surface.

Rubber Boots – Wearing rubber boots and keeping them for only plant health care work is smart. Your feet walk through the mist from spraying and they get chemicals spilled on them. Make sure they do not have any leaks. It is a good idea to take them off without using your hands – try to buy them the right size so you can slip them off.

Disinfectant Wipes – Since chemicals can be transferred to any surface that you touch, utilize disinfectant wipes while in the field and make note of any areas that need a thorough cleaning when you get back to the shop. It is a good idea to bring your lunch in metal container, that way you are sure that no chemicals are touching your food in transport. Wipe down the steering wheel and seats of your truck before you touch anything with your hands. Everything that you touch with your gloves on, or from spills gets contaminated with residue from the chemicals.

If we have learned just one thing from COVID19, it is that it is very difficult not to touch your face or other parts of your body – remember that everything you touch could be contaminated by chemicals – WIPE THE SURFACES DOWN WITH A DISINFECTANT WIPE!

These are just small ideas to think about when working with chemicals – sometimes they do not receive the warnings that they deserve. Whatever chemicals you are working with just be safe about it – think through all the scenarios that might come up during the day where you could have contaminated yourself. Maybe have a group safety meeting and think of all the ways that chemicals can contaminate your workspace. If you do not have anyone working with you, think about the chemical contacts you do during the course of the workday and how you can possibly do better in the future controlling the chemical contaminants.

Above all – be safe!

Written by: Dawn Thierbach

Driving Tests for Tree Care Companies

Driving Tests for Tree Care Companies

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

For many arborists, one of the largest draws to the tree care world is getting the chance to operate any of the specialized trucks that are utilized within the industry. From dump trucks to bucket trucks to grapple trucks, tree services usually have some unique vehicles in their fleet, but they all come with hefty price tags. So why don’t more tree services employ a driving test before allowing employees to take their mortgage-sized vehicles out to the job site? I think the simple answer is they don’t know how to structure a driving test. 

Prior to allowing an employee to drive a company vehicle, we strongly recommend having that employee complete a driving test. There is no perfect driving test out there, but here are the steps to building an effective test.

Determine the vehicle(s) used for the test – Most tree care companies have an assortment of different vehicles. We recommend that each driver passes a driving test for each type of vehicle that they can drive.

Designate a current team member(s) to facilitate the test – This team member must have obviously shown proficiency in operating the type of vehicle that will be used during the test and have an understanding of what to look for to approve a new driver.

Decide on what components you want to incorporate into your test – Driving tests should include a number of skills to properly verify the knowledge and skill level of the driver. At minimum a test should include: pre-trip inspection, starting, stopping, turning both directions, backing up and parking, etc. however, you may also want to include trailer attachment and/or permanently attached equipment operation (aerial lift, dump body, etc.).

Determine a safe route for the driving test – You most likely will not have enough room in your yard to do a full driving test, so search out an area or route close to your shop to perform the test. Consider the components that you will be testing for when selecting your route.

Create a checklist or sign off sheet for the facilitator to complete during the test – Obviously you will need to have some written proof of what was discovered during the driving test. Create a simple checklist for the facilitator to use and reference afterwards in making recommendations for additional training for the employee.

For more help in creating a driver test, reach out to an ArboRisk team member to get signed up for Thrive.

Supervisor, Manager, Director?

Supervisor, Manager, Director? Leadership your tree care company

As your business expands from one to four, to fifty employees there is a need to establish some layers of responsibility amongst your leadership team. Its best to clarify these layers with job descriptions. The terms supervisor, manager and director are common titles, but what are the differences between the three?

If you are not sure, don’t be embarrassed. There are a lot of similarities but each has a clear definition and knowing the difference is vital if you’re planning on hiring someone to oversee a crew or department.

The title of “supervisor” is often one of the first managerial positions within a company hierarchy. Often supervisors are promoted from within, rather than hired from outside. He or she is typically a high-performer who has been with the company long enough to be intimately familiar with both the company policies and the quality of work expected from the rest of the team.

Supervisors generally oversee a group of people in similar jobs, who are doing similar work. Their role is assigning work and keeping employees on track. Supervisors usually plan work daily to meet project objects and deadlines provided to them by a manager. Supervisors are often hands on and assist with training new employees.

Managers manage resources — whether financial, material, or personnel. Managers have decision-making capabilities regarding those resources. They determine what equipment and materials to purchase, establish project deadlines and who and when to hire and fire employees.

Because the responsibilities are greater, managers need to have more insight into the broader operations. They make sure work is performed within the policies and procedures of the company. A manager allocates resources to meet company goals. Depending on the size of the company, a manager may oversee employees directly, or oversee a team of supervisors.

Management positions require additional experience and often education and training. In most organizations, a manager is tasked with day-to-day concerns. For example, a manager may be more involved in overseeing employees and supervising the implementation of team or company-wide initiatives. The manager is the one with a hand on the wheel, keeping everyone on the right course. Managers are expected to encourage, mentor, discipline and evaluate employees on a frequent basis.

The planning horizon for managers is typically one week to a year.

A director is a manager of managers. A director is focused on implementation of company-wide initiatives. This position is tasked with formulating what will be next on the company or division’s agenda. Rather than having a hand on the wheel, the director is charting the course to come, before delivering instructions for managers to carry out. Directors formulate a vision of what success will look like.

A director is responsible for examining and evaluating the organization’s process. Where are the shortfalls? Where are the bottlenecks? Where is the system working and where is it failing? The director is tasked with solving these challenges. Directors are responsible for long term planning. The horizon is typically one to three years out.

For the small tree care company owner, you may be all three, however, the key for you is to understand you are responsible for both day to day and long-term planning. Make sure you take time to look to the future. Planning to hire the right people to take over the role of supervisor and manager will ultimately free up your time to do director level work, which is the key to successfully growing your company and profits.

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.

Written by: Jim Skiera

6 Tips to Getting the Most out of Your Fleet

6 Tips to Getting the Most out of Your Fleet

6 tips to getting the most out of your fleet

As a business owner, it didn’t take me long to realize that keeping our vehicles and equipment in tip top shape is an absolute must for our business. Regular weekly maintenance is so important for our operation to run smoothly. Besides the possible OSHA violation, weekly maintenance helps thwart off much bigger problems.

Trust me, I understand that it is easy to get busy and overloaded with the daily chaos of your work day, but maintenance is not something that you can forget. The lack of maintenance affects all aspects of your business, especially the safety of your personnel. Keeping your vehicles, equipment and drivers safe, productive and on the road is essential to achieving your organization’s sales and service goals.

Use these six tips to get the most out of your fleet:

1.Preventative Maintenance – Maintained vehicles perform as expected without unscheduled repairs and downtime. Preventative maintenance is as simple as following the manufacturers recommendations for oil changes, tire rotations, inspection and general vehicle safety checks. Remember preventative means proactive. These are done before you notice an issue. A few examples that we have implemented within our business are:

High Ranger – Debris and oil collect on the witness bolts and cause them to reverse. Unfortunately it is difficult to see so you must check them at least every other day.

Chipper – The radiator air filter can become clogged with debris causing the chipper to overheat.

Tires – The tire pressure drastically affects how your equipment is towed or drives. Check the tire pressure regularly in your chipper, trailer, and truck.

Running lights – A burnt out headlight is a simple fix, but easily overlooked if you are not paying attention to it. Make sure you are checking your lights on your pre-trip inspections.

2.Total Cost of Ownership – We know that older vehicles typically cost more than newer vehicles due to necessary repairs, but do you consider this in the total cost of the vehicle? If not, you need to start considering repairs in the overall value of your vehicles. Understanding the manufacturer’s warranty coverage and how it may affect this is also a key part along with paying attention to the residual value of the asset, trends in the used vehicle market and the optimal time to sell the vehicle for a cost-effective fleet. If you know the total cost of ownership, you won’t be afraid to sell a lemon of a vehicle.

3.Spec Vehicles Properly – It is important to be aware of the demands each vehicle will face when purchasing a vehicle. Outline vehicle usage to when properly spec’ing a vehicle. Purchasing the right vehicle will greatly reduce the total cost of ownership. Know how many log loads your truck will haul and be aware of the gross load it can handle. Under-spec’ing a vehicle, based on usage and load carried for instance, leads to maintenance issues down the road that could impact your budget. Similarly, utilizing an over-spec’d vehicle will drive increased costs.

4.Create and Communicate Company Policy with Drivers – Make sure all drivers are aware of their responsibilities and company vehicle use policies. They should have a complete understanding of your company’s employee handbooks and how you expect your equipment to be taken care of. Enforce maintenance policies and know what to do if the vehicle needs repair or is involved in an accident.

5.Check Tire Pressure Regularly – I mentioned it above, but it is so important that it deserves its own section. Tire pressure should consistently be monitored as it affects vehicle handling, tire wear and fuel mileage – all contributing to vehicle and driver safety. Remember – it is important to check the tire pressure when the air temperature changes.

6. Create Positive Relationship with Maintenance Provider – Ensuring you have a good working relationship with your fleet maintenance provider, whether they are in-house or outside your organization is vital. The trust that you place in your maintenance provider will be reciprocated with consistent work for them in the future. If they are not proactively helping you look for trouble issues before they happen, look at finding a new partner.

Don’t fall asleep on your fleet. Use these tips to get the most out of your vehicles and equipment.


Written by: Dawn Thierbach

Importance of Vehicle Inspections

Importance of Vehicle Inspections

Safety is the most important and obvious reason to inspect your vehicle. A vehicle defect found during an inspection could save you problems later. You could have a breakdown on the road that will cost time and dollars, or even worse, a crash. Federal and state laws require daily inspection by the driver when the vehicle is in use, and if you fail to do a pre-trip inspection, a DOT inspector can place your vehicle out of service. So why risk your life, or the life of another, in an unsafe vehicle?

Pre-Trip Inspection: The first thing a driver should do when beginning a trip is to review the Driver Vehicle Inspection Report from the previous day. If there were defects noted, you should verify that the DVIR has been signed by a mechanic certifying that either the defect was repaired, or the defect does not affect the safety of the vehicle and the repair was unnecessary. If the previous day’s DVIR did contain a defect, you must sign the report to indicate that you have reviewed it, and that the required certification and signature are present.

Vehicle Inspection: No truck may be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order such as:

-Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
-Turn indicators
-Parking (hand) brake
-Steering mechanism
-Lighting devices, running lights, and reflectors
-Windshield wipers
-Rear vision mirrors
-Coupling Devices
-Wheels and Rims
-Emergency Equipment

Post-Trip Inspection: At the completion of each day’s work, the driver is required to prepare a written report identifying the vehicle and listing any defect or deficiency discovered or reported to the driver that would affect the safety of the vehicle, or result in a mechanical breakdown. The report must cover at least the parts and accessories listed above under “Vehicle Inspection.” If defects are noted by the driver, the motor carrier is required to certify on the original report that the repairs have been made, or that the defect does not affect the safe operation of the vehicle. All DVIRS must be retained by the motor carrier for 3 months where the vehicle is stored. Always protect yourself and others by performing a thorough vehicle inspection!

Make sure you utilize the resources available to you and have a good understanding of expectations, especially locally. The TCIA offers daily recording and post trip inspections on their website that are bilingual and the DOT also has standard inspection forms available on their website. We also have a fleet safety program that discusses employee expectations, inspections, and much more. Feel free to reach out if you’re interested in a copy!

Written by: Margaret Hebert