Winter can be brutal. For both your crew and the trees. Put these nine suggestions into action this month to help make it through winter into the spring weather.
Put in a cold-weather policy. “We have a cold-weather policy that we put in place,” Will Torgeson, president of Capital City Tree Experts in Wisconsin, told Tree Services last year. “It was voted on by everyone in the company. We call it the ‘10/10/4’ rule — it has to be 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 10 a.m. and that temperature must be sustained for four hours in order for us to work that day. We all use the same weather app on our phones so we can all plan ahead accordingly.”
Plan ahead. Get ready for the winter months by taking your staff and completing preparation tasks around your building(s). For example, clean areas to make room for piling snow, get rid of mulch and wood piles that accumulate over the summer and convert spray rigs to a truck that pulls the large, enclosed trailer for winter work.
Look at options to keep business coming in. While companies that have tried it either love it or hate it, adding holiday lighting to your services offered can be a means of steady winter income. Also consider snow plowing and snow removal from roofs. Think about offering winter discounts on services, if your situation demands it. Try to sell the benefits of doing work in the winter to prospective customers. For example, explaining how frozen ground is less susceptible to damage and how trees’ winter dormancy allows for the least impact on their health when work is being done.
Check around the shop. Spray any pad locks, door locks, chain binders or anything that can freeze up in frigid temperatures with a product like PB Blaster, before winter hits. “And the first few cold nights will let you know if your truck and equipment batteries are weak,” Torgeson told TS. “We replace them as soon as they are trouble.”
Manage your staff. Every company is different — some don’t have to lay off employees (like climbers) during winter months. But some do; make sure to do long-range planning and training so you have a plan once frigid temperatures arrive. Also, backlog the appropriate amount of dormant-season work. Consider winter months the perfect time to train employees on necessary courses (hazard communication training, hearing tests, CPR, etc.) and get them back in the classroom — research and attend regional conferences and workshops.
Be prepared for storm cleanup. The most common — and perhaps most dangerous — hazard when carrying out tree care in storm scenarios are downed, energized conductors. The snow, ice and winds that accompany winter storms are just as happy to bring down utility lines as they are to bring down trees and branches, and often bring down both at the same time. Training in electrical hazard awareness should be a key component of any tree company’s education program. Tree crews should make the identification of electrical hazards part and parcel of their normal daily operations.
Be careful. Icy or snowy conditions coupled with tree parts on the ground can make movement and footing extremely difficult in storm situations. Move carefully and make sure footing is secure prior to making any cuts with a chain saw.
Keep operations on track. Install a backup power source that will power all critical components and equipment in a power failure. Also, prevent indoor temperatures from reaching unsafe levels for employees, equipment and materials by installing backup heat sources. Be certain that any heater using combustion is properly vented outside to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.
You never know. Stock extra supplies in case you or your employees become stranded at your business.