Curbside,Manitoba: “I would imagine the large companies all have written safety policies, but how many smaller companies have written safety policies? Do you break your safety book down for each piece of machinery that you own? Did you make the booklet up yourself, hire a company to do it for you or find someone else’s and adopt it as your own? How often do you have safety meetings, and do you have all your employees sign the booklet at each meeting?

“Presently, I do not have a written policy, as I am quite a small company, but new rules have been made here, and I think I am going to have to get one written up.”

Treemandan,Pennsylvania: “One reason it is good to have written policies is that someone can’t say they didn’t know. Whether you are small or big, it is good to have things written down and a copy for all to sign. Unless you trust everybody really well.

 “In order to accommodate your situation where you have no written policy, and there are things you need to add from time to time, try this:

“Start with a three-ring binder and put all the things you feel you need in it and give to your guys/girls. Once a week or [once a] month, hold meetings where you bring up old and new topics. You should ask for feedback from the people you expect to follow the policies. You should ask the people you pay to help write them. This way you stand a better chance of people understanding and feeling like they should be following the policies. Try to think of ways to write your policies that state the policy and give an example.”

Jshaw,Minnesota: “Our company doesn’t have a written policy, but we are a two-man company and talk a lot about safety issues. My concern is more ANSI and industry safety standards. As long as we are abiding by those regulations, I’m without a written policy. If we were to begin to grow our business and hire employees, I would definitely start looking into written policies that cover everything. One thing I’ve learned, cover your butt.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF SHINDAIWA.

RedlineIt,BritishColumbia: “I’ve done a crapload of work in this area, albeit for a large corporation that had no idea how compliant they were; how effective their training was; who was trained, on what, by whom; and why do we have all these accidents.

“An absolute basic is whenever you deliver training, it must be documented by all who received it. If it is not documented, it did not happen. [The] next simple step is to read the manuals that came with your equipment and understand them well enough that you can take an employee or group of employees through the manual quickly.”

BCWetCoast,Vancouver: “Having written policies is a good thing for workers’ comp. If an employee gets injured doing something that is against your safety policy, and they understand that policy (by signing off on it), then you can dispute the claim. All your employees, subs and temp hires should be given a copy of the safety policies to read when they start and should sign off before they start. A PITA, I know, but can save you in the long run.

“Workers’ comp here (WorkSafeBC) will go after company directors personally for flagrant violations. If you are a small, limited company, you (and/or your partner) may be the only director, so the safety of the limited company is bypassed. It is important to understand how the worker’s comp in your jurisdiction is regulated.”

Treemandan,Pennsylvania: “Actually, in Pennsylvania, the workers’ comp covers stupidity and ignorance. At least that is what I am led to believe. You say, ‘Don’t do that,’ and they do, they still get the comp. I guess it covers accidents, which it should, but allows for morons to roam freely.”

RedlineIt,BritishColumbia: “When new regs come out, your local municipality is supposed to be the first on the block to implement them. They’re sort of ethically bound (or driven by unions) to set the safety example. If your local town or city has a tree division affected by the new regs, they are likely to be the first to implement training. You can’t go wrong by stopping in for a chat with the local municipal tree warden or manager to ask about that issue, and then how they set up their training in general. Municipalities are the only people doing the same(ish) job who are not in direct competition with you, and are a great resource for this type of info.”

Techdave,California: “I work for a large corporation, and volunteer for a large state agency. There is always a safety topic covered with the whole crew on a monthly basis. This is the minimum for crews that do not work together. (Most guys work alone in our industry, even having a helper is rare.) Crews in the agency I volunteer in must do a weekly meeting of 15 to 20 minutes minimum on a topic pertinent to what they are about to do.

“Both situations have a new hire sign off after attending a safety talk or video as part of orientation. General stuff like safe vehicle operation, no drinking policy, no cell phone while driving policy, use of back belts, safety glasses, lockout tags, Kevlar arm sleeves, etc. For a tree company, the general stuff might also include how to do traffic control, how to feed the chipper, and how to couple and uncouple trailers safely.”

Fireman,Illinois: “I write SOPs (standard operating procedures) for chain saw operation, chipper operation, tree removal for groundies (when to remove branches when climber is cutting) and traffic control. My employees, when first hired, do not touch equipment for a week and have someone assigned to them to teach them how we work and know our procedures. They understand the dangers of each piece [of] equipment and what not to do, and what the equipment is designed for and what the limitations are. Until they understand it, they just drag branches, even if they say they have experience. I tell my guys no question is a dumb question; ask if you don’t know, and don’t act like you do know because that is when someone is going to get hurt. It is very important to protect yourself and your guys.”

Techdave,California: “The monthly crew meetings come with written safety instructions on general topics like how to use an MSDS or how to service hardwired equipment or appliances safely. The annual qualifications for a given piece of equipment like [a] saw, brush cutter or truck are more detailed and include operating instructions for common modes of operation, plus safety do’s and don’ts. Some stuff, like the tracked equipment for making trails, needs the above class, plus evaluation of hands-on by an instructor. Tailgate-type meetings should always be specific to today’s work or recent work and include detailed cautions and best operating procedures.”

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the forums at ArboristSite.com. Visit them, and join in the discussions!