The Illusion of Safety: Safe vs. Safer vs. Safer-er

treehumper

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
Ridgefield, NJ
For an industry supposedly manned (in the most manliest meaning of that word) by a bunch of rugged individuals who revel in the daring and danger of their jobs and how tough they are to brave the elements and natural world, there's an awful lot of bruised egos and sensitive skin. Just sayin....

Back to the original post... the biggest irritant in all of this is when you post something and then get jumped on for not being safe. I think that's what Mugg's is really getting at.
Yeah, it is but to equate, I'm annoyed by SPs nitpicking on everything safety related in my post to the notion that we are safe enough? Hmmmm... That's my biggest irritant. We aren't safe enough when people keep getting fcuked up by foreseeable, preventable incidents.

A little trickier when you're dealing with a professional who's doing something in a particular situation where they've worked out the risk variables and made a decision to act and they feel that it is a good decision whether or not it is following a particular rule.
How do we know a professional? By their actions? So, when someone calls them out on that particular decision how do they explain themselves? When their retort is, "I've been doin' it fer all my 10/20/30/40 yrs." doesn't express that they've worked out the risk variables but that it's just the way they know and are comfortable with. In assessing someone's experience this would equate with the idea they have 1 yr experience repeated 10/20/30/40 yrs. over. It doesn't come across as suggesting they've got x yrs of progressive experience learning and adapting the best practices. I'm not saying that's the case every time but which to assume? Let's compare that to the cumulative experience represented by the industry and those that take the time to establish and revise the particular rules we've come to endearingly refer to as the "Z". I personally take that as a damn good baseline of the "ideal" for the moment. They're not pulling the rules out of their asses for the hell of it. Most are based on dead and maimed bodies and the aftermath.

How about responding by saying what that decision making process entailed which led them to the conclusion that their actions were the better course? Civil discourse.

So instead of jumping on a worker who makes informed decisions at least show respect to the professional and check-in with them to find out what's up before doing the public gotcha.
That's often what the SP does, point out an obvious issue of safety. The poster then responds not with their risk evaluation but with a rationalizing of their actions. Then it spirals out of control into a name calling back and forth. Would it have helped if the SP had may it a query instead of a declaration adding why to the statement? Would then the poster have understood to explain their risk evaluation or would they have still rationalized?

Tricky business, I don't know the answer.
Yes, yes it is.... As we know from our experiences here on the Buzz one needs to pause, think twice, assume the best intentions, then post but, still be prepared for misinterpretation....

I've got way to much time on my hands today......
 

treehumper

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
Ridgefield, NJ
One last thought.....

If you've never had an incident, of any kind, congratulations. As long as you're working there's still time.

If and/or when it does happen, go in person to tell their family you were working "safe enough". Then watch their expression.
 

RopeShield

Branched out member
Location
Ontario, Canada
Really loved what Moss has said.
For me crawl, walk and run.
Things only get really fun when we start to fly.
How fast and far can you fly? Safely?
What kind of work can you do? Safely?
What is the most fun?
Flying right? Rigging and man.
Money is the icing on the cake.
And doing it pain and injury free allows you to due it over and over again.
We owe it to the next generation to share this philosophy.
Your best safest SELF will take you higher, further and faster. fly you monkeys

A big part of the fun is the thinking. Like others have said is your system in place to have fun?
The fun challenge is identifying the problems, analyzing, organizing and getting creative with your solutions.
optimum solutions
 

Pelorus

Branched out member
Location
Ontario
Fun is when the other guy breaks through the ice and gets his leg soaked.
Or when the customer is from a different planet, and trying to understand them requires a grounding in metaphysics and Boolean logic.
The job is all about longevity and endurance. It is a fight to the finish.
 

DSMc

Been here a while
Location
Montana
.....That's my biggest irritant. We aren't safe enough when people keep getting fcuked up by foreseeable, preventable incidents......

That, unfortunately, is a terrible argument that leads to head butting because it is only a philosophical construct which has no end of arguments both for and against.
It might be better to communicate that what was acceptably safe yesterday, after much study, may not be today and what is considered the standard of safety today may not pass muster tomorrow.
 

treehumper

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
Ridgefield, NJ
That, unfortunately, is a terrible argument that leads to head butting because it is only a philosophical construct which has no end of arguments both for and against.
It might be better to communicate that what was acceptably safe yesterday, after much study, may not be today and what is considered the standard of safety today may not pass muster tomorrow.
I think I said something like that somewhere else. But, yes, safe, not safe enough, is like doing our best. Today it is but tomorrow, it will be better because of what we have learned.
Kinda like something else I taught my trainees, "Practice doesn't make perfect, it makes improvement"

Never stop practicing safety.
 

BEH2202

New member
Location
VA, USA
Most of you guys don't know me as I don't often comment or post. I enjoy learning from all the veteran tree climbers on this forum and I highly value many of your opinions. I started lurking around here when I was unable to advance to the next level with my employer and by doing so I learned a lot of things that made me more productive and safe climber. Since then I have moved up the ladder some and now work for myself. Believe it or not about 50% of my time right now is spent training for other companies. You could say safety training is how I make a big part of my income. That being said, I would not want one of the green guys from the companies that I train for to read this thread. We are ranked right at the top of the list of most deadly jobs in America; this is not an honorific or an award for achievement. It is public acknowledgment that we have a safety problem as an industry. It has become such a big problem that some states have set up special task forces to deal with the problem. OSHA is becoming more interested in our industry as a result of the prodigious number of deaths. That being said I think the argument for "safe enough" might be a little premature. We still have people dying in droves. Now is not the time to say we have reached a point where we are safe enough. I don't know if any of you keep up with the accident briefs posted by the TCIA or any of the facebook groups for that matter, but people are being injured and killed everyday working in tree care. Instead of complaining that some guy reminded you that your instagram photo was taken in the canopy of a tree without your PPE on we should be thanking them for looking out for us. If we want the status quo to change, so that we can stop tripping over the dead bodies of our friends and co workers we need to be more focused on safety not less. Furthermore, I challenge you to become the safety police. Things aren't going to change until it becomes really uncomfortable and not "cool" to have unsafe work practices. If you see some young kid on facebook posting a picture of him free climbing a tree I would argue it is your duty as a more knowledgeable person to attempt to correct that. You don't have to be a dick about it, but you should do it with tact. If you see a guy on a job without his kit on stop him and tell him to put it on. If by doing this I prevent an incident I really don't care if it upsets people or hurts their egos. All of these incidents and deaths make our industry as a whole look bad, it causes our insurance rates to remain high, and it prevents new blood from entering the industry. Just for the record, I am not advocating putting you in a bubble wrap suit, nor am I ignoring the idea of production, but if someone wants to argue that one handing a chainsaw will make them more productive, well at that point I have to question their intelligence. Be part of the solution guys, not the problem.
 

moss

Been here a while
The reasonable approach to one-handing (what BEH2202 used as an example) is what we know: when a climber is one-handing they've just taken away significant control of the saw, they're exposing themselves to a much higher level of risk. So a wise guideline would say: "One-handing a top handled saw should not be implemented as a regular practice for climbing arborists. The climber's ability to control the saw can be greatly compromised. There are unique scenarios where one-handing a top handled saw can be done safely or makes sense. An operator should make every effort to use two hands on the saw before making the decision to one-hand operate a top handled saw". It's very difficult to bring this subtle approach into safety guidelines.

I think this thread is recognizing the reality that climbers and ground workers need to know what the safety guidelines are, and that safety guidelines will not keep them safe. They should work within their knowledge base, listen to advice on safe working practices, and never let another tree worker or supervisor force or shame them into doing something that feels unsafe. They alone are ultimately responsible for their own safety.

I think a newbie tree worker should read this thread. I know it makes the safety instructor's work more challenging. If a BEH2202 (hey what's your first name, I know you can't be a robot!) teaches a safety seminar to a tree crew and the next day the newbie sees a veteran climber on their crew one-handing a top handle what does that mean to the newbie? It means that everything the safety instructor said yesterday is suspect. I guess I'm talking about the next level of teaching safety, it is more difficult, it admits ambiguity, it teaches the basics and challenges the individual tree worker to take ultimate responsibility for their safety.
-AJ
 

Steve Connally

Been here a while
My intelligence is questionable then because I 1 hand when the calculated risk and comfort is appropriate for myself and I make that decision with knowing the reprocussions. I try not to as much as I feel like I can. I won't argue about being wrong or rite. It is my choice and I do so knowing my experience and abilities. Really we shouldn't be 1 handing hand saws. I've cut myself too many times with one over 20 years, but again, its an old argument!
 

Pelorus

Branched out member
Location
Ontario
I'll one-hand sometimes for greater stability, particularly when reaching out to make a cut while balancing on thinner stems.
It is a tradeoff between one-handing or taking an extra 20 seconds (or whatever) to more securely position myself in order to make the cut two-handed.
2nd scenario is when dismantling a spruce or balsalm fir with scads of smallish limbs that extend over a roof....one-hand, swing and drop them away from roof, vs lowering a few dozen 5 lb limbs with a rope, and tie up a groundman who could be doing something else.
I don't mind having my intelligence questioned... my wife and progeny frequently ponder what is going on in my head.
Bottom line for me is to strive to accomplish treework efficiently and (reasonably) safely.
A slight increase in risk in order to be less tired, and more productive is a satisfactory arrangement to this self-employed business owner.
 

rope-a-dope

Branched out member
Location
Asheville
I've been following along so far, chewing this thread into mulch with my brain chipper.
High five moss, your posts are really helpful in understanding the dynamics between we, the tree workers, and our our occupational risk. There are lots of risks. And I really prefer the language of risk management over the concept of "safety."
Safety is vague. Safe enough is another shade of vague. Safety police are probably way less effective online as they are on the jobsite. And our socially accepted policies, rules and regs, are just the beginning.
RopeShield has a point beyond the intensive persuasion surrounding the problem of harmed workers. There are reasons other than money that motivate us to cut and climb trees. If you are new to arboriculture or if you are a veteran tree slayer, you will never find a consistent, static formula to apply to all risk that will prevent all harm. It is much more realistic to develop an attitude or a state of mind that allows you to make decisions favoring caution and reducing risk. An elevated awareness and sensitivity to risk, situational awareness and intuition, are instrumental to preventing injury. How do you put that in a safety program? Its complicated, but the first step is to clear your head of intrusive distracting thoughts and focus on the present, which for me, does not include money at all. That is not to say that money and risk management cannot be related or are opposed. The fact remains, if you are stressed about money and getting impatient and beginning to rush through a job...you are not thinking as much about everything around you.
By all means, we should be effective if we are getting paid to work. But if your daily approach to work includes cutting as many corners as possible, get in get out get paid, you are missing things...that can be enjoyable...or can kill you.
So for me, staying safe is psychological. We should have standards and we should hold each other accountable and responsible for our collective calamities, but the act of working in ways that reduce risks will always remain on the personal level.
Reflect on that, homies...
 

treehumper

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
Ridgefield, NJ
A great discussion. I'll throw some more thoughts out there.

We are ranked right at the top of the list of most deadly jobs in America; this is not an honorific or an award for achievement. It is public acknowledgment that we have a safety problem as an industry.
This is true. Too many hold to the notion that because they work in this industry and have survived thus far, reasonably unscathed, that they are somehow badass for working in one of the most deadly jobs. What makes the job deadly isn't the work in itself but the attitude of the workers. No greater evidence is needed than this very statistic. I say this because there are much more deadly jobs that have been made safer than ours by the attitude of the workers and employers.

Now is not the time to say we have reached a point where we are safe enough.
My point exactly. When we say it's good enough we are not allowing for any further improvement and as such remain stuck and falling behind. Whether it's safe work practices or the latest tool, continuous improvement is the key.

Take Steve Connelly's recent acquisition, a productivity tool that will open a new market for him yet, when he jumps behind the wheel and heads out on the road to his first job he's likely to be outside his comfort zone. Running the grapple saw remotely for the first few times will also be well outside his comfort zone, yet he'll push through that until he is comfortable, confident and productive. I doubt he'll work outside the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer until such time he's fully confident of his skill to work within them. It may have something to do with the risk/reward equation. That's a very, very expensive piece of equipment that his business is being built upon. His risk exposure far outweighs the reward, initially. That'll change in time as his knowledge of the limits of him and the equipment become familiar and his skills become ingrained. Much alike to a new driver.

At some point he may become successful enough to acquire another and take on someone else to run that one. Here is where the challenge of training and mentoring come in. How to effectively communicate to a newbie how to develop into the role. That will require him to step back to those early days when he had to consciously think through each step that is now performed by rote in order to convey them to the new trainee. Training is a whole other set of skills one needs to acquire and get comfortable with in order to be effective. It's not something you just do.

So a wise guideline would say: "One-handing a top handled saw should not be implemented as a regular practice for climbing arborists. The climber's ability to control the saw can be greatly compromised. There are unique scenarios where one-handing a top handled saw can be done safely or makes sense. An operator should make every effort to use two hands on the saw before making the decision to one-hand operate a top handled saw". It's very difficult to bring this subtle approach into safety guidelines.

This is in essence what the Z says with one further caveat that it is the employer who is responsible for deciding when one hand will be used in a particular situation. So, it's not all that difficult though it did take a committee some time to agree on the wording. Why the employer and not the climber? As in all things management or employer related, their effectiveness is measure by the performance of their employees. So, conversely the failings of their employees are a failure of management. That's why they're paid the big bucks!
OSHA looks at it this way that's why there's that nasty fine based on a willful violation. See the decision against the employer in the case of the kid that was fed through a chipper on his first day.

I think this thread is recognizing the reality that climbers and ground workers need to know what the safety guidelines are, and that safety guidelines will not keep them safe. They should work within their knowledge base, listen to advice on safe working practices, and never let another tree worker or supervisor force or shame them into doing something that feels unsafe. They alone are ultimately responsible for their own safety.
This is true and has been memorialized in the OSHA regs. Within the guidelines called regulations are caveats that recognize the variability of the work. The onus on the employer to provide a safe workplace based on the regulations establishes a clear line in the sand. As employers and managers you cross that line at your own peril. The right to refuse work that the employee feels is unsafe is the clause that gives them the ultimate responsibility for their own safety. However, in the absence of training and direction in the form of management how will the new worker know? That kid died taking his cues from the experienced workers and the owner.

(continued in next post)
 

treehumper

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
Ridgefield, NJ
Where training is concerned, it is meted out in stages:

  • basic - Learning fundamentals with no gray areas,
  • intermediate - more complex concepts with the introduction of some gray areas and the decision making process
  • advanced - new methods, tools and techniques that replace the fundamentals. Effective decision making in all of the gray areas
  • Expert - honing of the decision making process and productivity tools, understanding the underlying business model and pricing formulation

Safe work practices run throughout this and money doesn't. Not until the employee reaches the expert level. Money is based on the business model and the pricing takes into account all factors including the cost of meeting the safe work place requirements. There is no place for money in the mind of the treeworker while they are gaining proficiency in their skills. Their development cost is built into the overall pricing structure.

It is a tradeoff between one-handing or taking an extra 20 seconds (or whatever) to more securely position myself in order to make the cut two-handed.
The trade off isn't between the shortcut or the extra time it takes to comply with the guideline. It's between the cost of an incident and the number of times you take that short cut. These are converging points. As in, the more times you take the shortcut the greater the likelihood of the incident occurring. Some get away with it for a very long time others well, not so long. Either way, if you run the numbers the convergence point of an incident occurring with the number of times you perform the shortcut usually arises well before the break even point.

As I found from experience that break even point is very high when one factors in all the costs both in real dollars and intangibles costs to those affected by the incident.

dismantling a spruce or balsalm fir with scads of smallish limbs that extend over a roof....one-hand, swing and drop them away from roof, vs lowering a few dozen 5 lb limbs with a rope, and tie up a groundman who could be doing something else.
Hmmmm... the difference in time is so minuscule that it's not even a rounding error in the quote. If it is then there's a problem with the quoting. As for the groundsmen doing something else, they're job is to clear the brush while I'm dismantling the tree. That they are running a rope is not going to impede them from doing their job. In most cases it creates efficient workflow instead of a scenario where I'm bombing away then stopping to wait for them to catch up and free up my rope. Again, this more a function of proper pricing of the work than using one hand v. two hands and some rigging.
A slight increase in risk in order to be less tired, and more productive is a satisfactory arrangement
Priced right and you win. If you're having to rush through the job in order to make money then time to review your quoting or more so, your selling. Learn to sell to a reduced risk, less tired and more productive, in dollar terms. Before you ask, yes my clients will pay for it. The reason being is how we sell our company and service. Oh and on the point of productivity, our clients are always impressed by our efficiency and smooth operation. The best example is the 600 yr old white oak dismantling. Our competitor was planning for a week to get the job done with a bigger crew. We were done in 2 days. The oberservation shared with me over and over again by the client and observers was the reverence we approached the work with and how professional we operated.

risk management over the concept of "safety."
I'd look at it this way. Safety is the goal. In our business, that would be going home everyday having accomplished the work as planned without incident, healthy and able to work the next day. Risk management is the means by which we accomplish our goal. How we manage that risk is through the application of industry minimum best practices as set for in the standards. A bit of an oxymoron to be sure but what I mean is they are the basic best practices and we are free to exceed them with our own as long as those are in fact provable to be better (that clause that stipulates the employer makes the call on particular situations). It's all well and good to say you thought it was better (or safer) when nothing happens but when shit goes south you'll be called upon to back that up with something tangible either by the law or conscience.


Safety police are probably way less effective online
That may be but they do effect. I'm in a couple of FB arborist/tree guy groups and whenever the topic of safety comes up and the debate rages there are always those that will confess to being "that guy" and, through their reading the comments of the safety police changed their ways. That takes an open mind and willingness to suspend current preconceived notions and apply new ones.

you will never find a consistent, static formula to apply to all risk that will prevent all harm.
Not one that will prevent ALL but there is a static formula to apply to all risk to mitigate that harm. You allude to it here:
develop an attitude or a state of mind that allows you to make decisions favoring caution and reducing risk. An elevated awareness and sensitivity to risk, situational awareness and intuition, are instrumental to preventing injury.
There it is. I'll elaborate on the one point and contradict what was written in the January TCI magazine. Situational awareness is teachable. There are courses out there, google it. Military train for this. One acronym I came across and I believe is referred to in that article is, SLAM.

STOP- pause for a moment
LOOK - Take in the situation you're in now. Note the changes to the original situation.
ASSESS - Where are you at now, what impact do the changes have on the situation, positive or negative will I need to adjust or modify my approach?
MANAGE - Direct the changes, ensure your crew is in agreement and understand the modifications. Also self-manage, are you set up to proceed and focused without distractions to your present condition?


first step is to clear your head of intrusive distracting thoughts and focus on the present
That is in and of itself the first great truth of Zen treework. Be in the moment. Once you're on the job, whatever dollars are on it don't matter. Work to get the tree done in the safest manner possible applying all your skill in expertise. That will enable your efficiency and productivity, not rushing or hurrying up. This is tougher for an owner or someone who does the climbing and estimating. Your task is that much harder because you have to consciously keep the money out of your mind despite it being ever present.

We've come to treat the end result as a feedback loop to our estimating. Did the work get done safely, as specified and to the client's satisfaction in the time estimated? If not, why? What was missed in the costing process? Was it foreseeable or beyond our control? A key assumption in this is that the crew is working to it's safest and best practices on the day of the job.

staying safe is psychological
Exactly. Part of this is the psychology of team work. We are interdependent and as such must function with each other in mind. Your wellbeing is intrinsic to mine and vice versa.

Work as if your life depended on it...
 

Pelorus

Branched out member
Location
Ontario
Rob, in the above example I cited, bear in mind I'm talking about small limbs. Small ones. <5lb. That you can't just cut and let fall. Larger ones on conifers (over a structure) I'll speedline, or let down several at a time.
I've been playing this game a long time; it ain't my first rodeo. I'm 56 and still.contract climb for several other tree services. They dont hire me for my looks.
For you to say the difference in time is miniscule is a bit ridiculous. Since your customers are amazed with your efficiency, carry on with your methodology.
 

Steve Connally

Been here a while
And to be quite honest Rob, I'm scared shitless of that machine! The ability to miscalculate and have a catastrophic failure is so easy. I'm not happy with the load read out and am having trouble finding a solutions. With all that said, It will be a long time of first days for me with lots of moving parts and factors I haven't even though of yet. Its very stressful.
 

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