By Emilio Figueroa, Chief Insurance Officer, Foresight
As Foresight recently highlighted right here on our blog, Arborists and Tree Care Professionals are busier than ever, and “busy season” is now 365-day-a-year event. A mentality of “work hard and fast” is common. The work is job-driven—especially for smaller crews, having the ability to finish a tree quickly and move on to the next is what drives revenue. While booming business can seem like a positive from a financial standpoint, it can quickly create dangerous scenarios for workers on the job. In a survey we conducted, 74 percent of workers who responded indicated that they had worked unsafely due to feeling pressured to work faster. That’s alarming.
In my role as Chief Insurance Officer, my mission is your clients’ safety; and I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the consequences that fatigue and rushing can have on tree surgeons in the field. Foresight has seen a steady uptick in submissions from you, our brokers, in Arborists and Tree Care class codes—so this feels like the perfect time to share what we have learned concerning on-the-job behavior and how it can shape your client’s safety culture.
When time is coming down to the wire to finish a tree, tension can arise. Team leads are pushing to wrap the job up and meet deadlines, and the crew are eager to go home and get some much-needed rest. Moments like this can lead to the cutting of corners, which dramatically increases the chance that an injury or accident can occur.
For some arborists, the chaotic cycle of always working against the clock becomes a part of their culture, which means businesses may need to do a great deal of reconditioning to help workers feel they can center safety over profits. Your client can set the tone by eliminating the pressure cooker environment of a job at the outset:
When your client provides a quote and time estimate for a client, they should be thinking through several things:
Approaching each new job through a lens of safety rather than forcing scheduling to accommodate deadlines will begin to shift how everyone perceives organizational priorities, and allows the culture to become healthier and more safety-oriented.
“Arborists? They have the worst back and neck injuries I’ve seen in my entire career,” said a neurologist one of Foresight’s employees had an appointment with last week. Indeed, it seems that there has become an unspoken acceptance that injuries are “part of the job” in the tree care field, and that should never be true—for Arborists or for anyone!
We find that work cultures which include an open dialogue helps reduce incidents on the job, as crews feel more empowered to speak openly and often with supervisors when a task is outside their skill level or comfort zone. It is also helpful to share lessons learned in team meetings, including incidents and near-misses, to keep safety front-of-mind at all times. Your client should share the numbers with their team and use the data to determine if additional training is needed for certain tasks.
An essential part of that dialogue, if your client has non-native English speakers on their crew, must include translation of safety and training materials. Working with a carrier like Foresight, you’ll have access to those translated materials.
In arboriculture, safety mistakes can often be life-altering. While taking a sick day or opting to postpone work due to weather can seem stressful in the moment, these decisions are not only immediately beneficial in reducing exposure—but they also condition the crew *and* their customers not to continue setting unhealthy or unreasonable expectations for the industry as a whole. The cost of rescheduling a job is far less than that of a catastrophic accident or injury to your client’s valued and skilled laborers.
As a trusted risk management partner to your client, you are in a position to help them understand the benefits of promoting a safety culture. Partnering with a workers compensation company like Foresight can arm you with many resources to help your clients focus on safer behaviors. Through the safety technology and machine learning applied to every policy we write, your clients who choose Foresight receive safety coaching and are incentivized to complete safety actions that can lead to lower premiums.
You have an important role to play in making Arboriculture a safer industry for everyone it touches.