Promoting Safety Culture

September 21, 2020

Understandably, crew safety is a hot topic in the tree care industry.  As professionals, we must always ask ourselves, “How can we be more safe?” The reason for this is obvious to us at Gunnison, it is a dangerous job.  Beyond that, we care about our crew and want to consistently improve the way we operate.  This goes in line with our core value to “Be Better”.  Our approach to safety stems out of necessity and a desire to model the best practices as a leader in the industry.  While we cannot 100% guarantee that someone will not be injured on the job, we can guarantee that we are taking every measure of prevention possible.

As an accredited member of the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), we have access to a valuable resource of compiled safety data and resources from other leaders within the industry.  The wealth of knowledge provided by TCIA is the foundation of a solid safety program.They also release weekly accident reports that can be reviewed at our tailgate safety meetings and serve as examples of what not to do.  Collectively we learn from each other to be aware of potential hazards and preventions for our jobs.

The focus on safety with Gunnison is evident from day one when a new member joins the team.  Every employee, regardless of their level of experience or knowledge of tree care, has the power to stop all work on a job site or “stop work authority.”  Empowering our employees to recognize unsafe work, to be aware of dangers on the job site and have the voice to acknowledge this to the crew and management is essential accountability towards creating a safe environment for everyone.  

Having a plan allows us to scrutinize every aspect of a job site.  Our crews are trained to perform a pre-job briefing: setting aside time to slow down, look at the entire site, recognize potential risks and formulate a plan. There should be no surprises in regards to jobsite risks and hazards.  This ensures that we are aware of things like power lines, hanging branches and underground utilities, but also allows us the opportunity to recognize and avoid potential damage to our client’s property.

In today’s society, we are aware of the need for personal protection equipment, PPE.  This is also imperative in the tree care industry.  Proper PPE for tree care is a hard hat, eye protection, ear protection, chaps (if using a chainsaw) and sturdy supportive footwear.  It also means using safety lanyards while using our mobile man-lifts, bucket trucks and while climbing.  Part of our TCIA accreditation and ISA certification, is to ensure we have at least 2 points of attachment at any given time while working in a tree.  This is a climbing line and a secondary lanyard.  We not only provide the necessary tools for the job but also the culture and expectation that they are used.

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Not everyone starts the job as a fully trained professional.  It is essential for Gunnison to meet our people where they are. Every employee is provided with a clear path to their goals from day one. We give each new hire a binder with checklists that must be completed in order to move forward. This allows everyone to work at their own pace, know exactly what they need to accomplish and set goals for the future. This also does not place any individual in a position where they are potentially beyond their skill level and in a risky situation. This is another essential component to providing a safe and productive work environment.

Another way we follow TCIA’s recommendations is that we have weekly safety meetings every Tuesday morning with the entire team.  We review our close calls, accidents or near misses in order to learn from the experiences of our peers.  It allows the opportunity to review what happened, identify the root cause and learn how to avoid similar occurrences in the future.  Then we go over a pre-established safety topic for the week which can be appropriate to the season or current events. Examples are: heat related illnesses are covered every summer and an in-depth aerial rescue training happens every year around the time of the climbing competition.  These topics may seem basic or common knowledge, however they serve as a great way to keep information and protocol at the front of mind to take precaution even when things seem mundane.

Our safety culture is a living program. It is not perfect, and it must be constantly analyzed, adapted and made better, just like our team. We have a constant dialogue of ways to actively be better. We must always be teaching and learning in order to create the best and safest environment possible. We believe that this commitment to safety and improvement is what sets Gunnison apart and makes us a leader in the industry.

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