Worsening weather’s impact on arborists may surprise you. Extreme temperature variation increases the severity and frequency of severe weather events such as hurricanes, tornados, floods, and droughts. Because this also holds true for winter storm season and increased snowfall amounts, an arborist’s “busy season” knows no seasonal boundaries.
Studies Show Heightened Workplace Risk for Arborists
Experts at Rutgers University conducted research in the years following 2012’s devastating Hurricane Sandy to determine how severe storms impact arboriculture as a whole. What they learned was that “storms and the ensuing long hours exacerbate [an arborist’s] significant risks.” The more frequent and severe weather events are, the greater the need for arborist services in the aftermath.
An unexpected consequence of the increased demand on their time and resources means that not everyone will follow the best practice of hiring qualified arborists, and the results can be frightening. Science Daily reported that “The incidence of injuries increases after storms when unqualified ‘storm-chasers’ with chainsaws and landscaping companies offer their services to uninformed homeowners.”
But it’s not only the DIY tree trimmers who are at risk. Even well-established businesses facing increased demand can let young or untrained workers on site or under-adress equipment maintenance.
How Arborists Can Prepare
Address these evolving exposures by partnering with insurance agents and carriers who have demonstrated subject matter expertise in this specialty.
“Arboriculture requires highly trained, highly skilled workers to constantly adapt while being mindful of life-threatening risks,” said Emilio Figueroa, Foresight’s Chief Insurance Officer. “Arborists set themselves up for success when they match with risk management partners who are already focusing on what trends and perils impact their business two, three, or five years from now.”
Some topics insurance partners can discuss with arborists include:
- Are you fully dedicated to adequate safety training and refreshers for your staff year round?
- Are you communicating critical safety information in your team members’ native language?
- Do you use a paper or app-based safety management system? Is it effective for resolving hazards and preventing injuries?
- Are you adequately staffed for worst case scenario CAT events in our area? Do you have the resources to verify that contract hires know safe work practices?
- How will you ensure your team isn’t dangerously overworked during post-storm busy times?
Working with industry specialized insurance partners can also alleviate extra work for arborist businesses, especially when time is of the essence.
“The last thing you want is to be educating your insurance company about your business in the middle of a claim or a catastrophe,” said Figueroa. “At Foresight, not only are we relying on data from our proprietary technology to help cut incident rates in half; but we are rewarding our clients who are proactive in improving their safety records with better rates, similar to a good driver rewards program in auto insurance.”
Beyond Planning: Doing Tree Work Safely
The work arborists perform is so specialized that they’ve come to be known as “tree surgeons.” It should come as no shock to anyone who has observed an arborist scaling a tree or untangling branches from electrical wires after a storm that arborists have one of the most dangerous jobs in America. And now, with unpredictable weather patterns changing the landscape, prioritizing worker safety is paramount.
To adapt to the new year-long busy season, arborists must ensure all workers are adequately prepared, even temporary hires. Partnering with a workers comp provider like Foresight can help ensure arborists’ safety-first programs run smoothly and are rewarded with lower premiums.