Our Culture of Safety and Training
Written by: By: Paul Scharfenberger, Mentoring Coordinator Certified Arborist WI-0841A
I started working at Wachtel Tree Science in the mid 1990’s. Our location was small with barely enough space. Our equipment was functional, but in need of upgrading. Our culture was focused on the day at hand and getting the job done.
Much has changed in the last 20 some years. We have ample space for equipment, which is mostly bought new. We can request tools that will make our tasks safer or more efficient. The most important change, and the hardest one to achieve, has been the shift in our culture. Our culture has methodically been driven by ownership to be safer and focus more on training in the field.
This culture of safety and training has permeated our entire company. These values make Wachtel Tree Science a destination for arboricultural professionals.
New employees are set up with a few key tools such as a hard-hat installed with a radio communication system. Gone are the days of shouting short commands to each other over loud equipment. Now we can talk at normal volumes with each other through the communication systems. This allows us to talk trainees through skills such as using a chainsaw as they are doing it, not just beforehand.
New hires are provided a training binder detailing different skills in the arboricultural profession. Our more experienced people sign off on these items when proficiency is shown in each area. A mentor is assigned to each new employee to work with them as they grow within the profession. This process adds another layer of training and growth that can go beyond skill-based advancement.
Every employee is provided the opportunity to speak up, no matter their experience level. If something does not feel right or safe in a given moment, crewmembers are expected to speak up or stop to listen, even if they just started that day. Everyone is expected to talk about near misses during our weekly safety meetings. We can all learn from each other and avoid similar problems in the future through this communication.
Ownership and management guide and encourage this culture of safety and training. Crew leaders are encouraged to provide training whenever possible so we can all grow into better arborists. Our employees benefit as individuals, the company benefits as a cohesive team, and our clients benefit by having more advanced crews. Perhaps you will be able to spot some training moments and safety precautions the next time our crew is out maintaining your trees.