Spring 2015 - The Science of Safety

By ake Kubisiak, Certified Arborist

Annually the tree care industry has one of the highest rates of accidents per hour worked according to OSHA.  Our job can create multiple exposures to employee injury or property damage on a daily basis.  The Science of Safety is a study of how human interaction and psychology play a significant role in influencing and creating a culture of safety.   

At Wachtel Tree Science we continually invest in the safety of our people and company.  We hold a weekly safety meeting covering a review of near hits and accidents along with a training topic related to our work.  Our safety program is guided by a Safety Coordinator and Safety Committee made up of employees.  Three of our employees are Certified Treecare Safety Professionals – an industry sponsored program.  Near hits and incidents are recorded and analyzed to guide the next year’s training needs. Employees are trained and certified in First Aid and CPR, we have first aid kits in all of our vehicles along with many other safety related investments.  The question remains, are we now SAFE?

Safety should be easy.  Create the right policies and procedures and you will never have issues.  Of course, those statements are flawed.  After proper training, equipment maintenance, personal protective equipment and other numerous safety investments are made why do incidents still occur?  Over time many studies have pointed to organizational culture as the major influence on actual safety.  A key factor in determining how well a safety program performs is the relationship between employees and management.  Do employees believe that management has a true commitment to the employees working safely?  Is it better, in the employees thinking, to perform the job by taking some level of risk to improve profit or provide some other perceived gain?  Does the employee even recognize the risk being taken?  

Policies and procedures create a framework for safety.  An overriding factor of safety is the culture of company.  To create a positive culture means everyone involved must actively participate and care about the other employees and their safety.  From top to bottom safety creates a gate that every decision must pass through.  The hope is that an employee’s vision is enhanced so that at the moment of truth at whatever point along the way the employee is able to stop and reconsider their next action and avoid an accident.

At Wachtel Tree Science we have worked on developing this strong culture that we feel is positively driven towards safe work practices.  The process is never truly completed, but needs to be continually re-enforced.  Management and ownership work to stay continually involved and give value to concerns raised by employees.  New and current employees are asked to have an open mind to the challenges of working in our dynamic and exposure filled field.  We can claim some level of success as we are currently at 526 days without a lost time accident.  Our previous record was 2,727 days.  It is important to re-evaluate our old practices and pay attention to observations made by employees.  Taking action to effect change or empower our people to make the change.  Just remember Safety is No Accident.

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