Too many trees not enough time

Raven

Branched out member
Location
Northwoods
Hello all amazing tree people,


At the bottom of this post you'll find a link to a Gofundme please click the link for specific details and help out a family in need if you have the capacity to do so. I know this isn't the only Gofundme out there for a similar situation but just the most recent one that I'm personally aware of, and I know there are way too many families hurting because a loved one has been injured on the job.

In general I'd like to address an all too common issue in our industry and that is experienced technicians getting seriously injured on the job due to rushing and complacency. This has been occurring with greater frequency lately and I fear the trend will continue unless we all take steps to remediate the root causes. There is no good reason to end up in the hospital trying to earn a paycheck while performing a service for a person you may not even know. Our workplace should not be comparable to a battlefield or contact sporting event where you start your day with the realization that you may be injured or worse before it's over. We need to be able to head off to work leaving our families with the comfort and knowledge that we'll be home safely at day's end - there should be no question about that, they deserve that peace of mind. Now when you're in your car on the freeway, in an airplane, even on vacation or a camping trip - these are times when you have very little control over outcomes mostly due to the wildly unpredictable actions of your fellow humans and the fickle nature of nature itself. However, when we are on our jobsite - this is a time when we can and should have almost absolute control over predictable and safe outcomes. In fact, aside from being safe in your own home, the workplace should be one of the the safest and most manageable environments you'll see on a daily basis.

Some of the underlying factors include:

- A shortage of skilled technicians and even unskilled laborers - this leads to folks working longer hours, 6-7 day work weeks, taking on more responsibilities, working unsupervised or unassisted or even alone, and attempting tasks they're untrained and unprepared for.

- Overloaded schedules - there just aren't enough tree companies to handle the workload that is being imposed on our industry at this moment in time. Homeowners have been spending more time in their yards and spending less money elsewhere so "call the tree company", trees are dying due to insect, diseases and environmental factors so "call the tree company", extreme weather events creating mega storms so you have to "call the tree company".

- Dead and hazard trees - these come in all species and I fear that due to the industry as a whole "getting behind" as it were, we'll have these dead hazard trees standing on the stump longer than they should and becoming weaker and more dangerous over time increasing risk to workers when they do eventually get there.

- Weather. It's out of our control but we have to function inside the parameters provided by nature. Currently it's been HOT everywhere leading to a bunch of heat exhaustion episodes that I am personally aware of. For some reason people tend to push themselves to get a job done whether it's out of personal pride or to impress their employer or customer or they just would rather be done so taking a break is a bad option for them.

- Cranes. We've been using these for tree removal on a more frequent basis lately because they're really "efficiency machines". Not inherently dangerous unless we use them wrong. They have huge benefits to our industry but also increase the potential severity of unintended outcomes in the event of an accident. There's pretty much no margin for error so plan accordingly when using them.

- Urban expansion - here in MN we're fortunate to have many forested areas to enjoy nature and wildlife but at the same time we see new developments housing and roads moving into these forests once again increasing our workloads as tree professionals.

- New tree companies - or established landscape companies adding tree work to their services. Where are they finding skilled labor?

- Supply chain issues - this may be a smaller problem overall but still an underlying factor that has lead to equipment being unusable or used in disrepair and also adding a frustrating stressor to company owners and workers alike.

All of these factors and others have resulted in a situation that is potentially even more hazardous than ever if ignored and unchecked. Here are some ways we can alleviate this problem and keep ourselves safe at work although not a complete list and I encourage you to come up with your own innovative solutions.

1) Slow down! Rushing is a killer and this ain't a race. You'll get done what you get done and be happy with that. If you have to finish a job tomorrow then so be it. Take a break when you need one.

2) Manage customer expectations on the front end, don't promise too much. This will give you freedom to work at your own pace.

3) Don't work beyond your capacity or skill level or let others do so.

4) Manage and control your worksite from the moment you arrive. An extra 5 minutes of planning on the front end of a job can really increase efficiency and save time overall plus help you avoid unplanned events(accidents). In the culinary world this is referred to as
"mise en place", it means having everything prepared and ready BEFORE you start cooking to ensure a positive outcome.

5) Communicate! With your team members and all involved in the current project. Everyone on site should be continually monitoring the situation and sharing information. Extra eyes and brains are always helpful.

6) Don't take shortcuts. Example: Always tie in twice with a lanyard AND a rope long enough to get you safely to the ground! Just one example there are many times during a workday when you'll be tempted to take a shortcut so you can be a little faster - that doesn't always work out and if you mess up, well just read the link below. Weigh the risk vs. benefit in your head before you decide to save 10 seconds that may change your life forever.

That's not an exclusive or extensive list so please add your own ideas in order to make your own workplace safer.


I'll close there I think I've said enough for now to hopefully get us all thinking and point the needle in the right direction. Please feel free to reply with your own thoughts on the subject and share the message as you see fit. Everybody please be safe out there and assure your families you'll be home safe at the end of the day. Check out Jessi's story at the bottom, help him out if you can and let's please not have to keep doing this!


Sincerely and respectfully -

Just another tree guy

https://www.gofundme.com/f/jessi-ernst-medical-expenses
 

Dan Cobb

Branched out member
Location
Hoover
For ways to make things safer, I would include training, although not working beyond your skill level hints at training. Whether it's formal training, informal OJT (on the job training) or just practicing new techniques in low risk environments, everyone needs the skills and knowledge to necessary to perform their duties.
 

dspacio

Participating member
Location
Narragansett Bay
thanks for sharing this. I am noticing a lot of what you said. Crew I am working with are booked 5 months out, lost 3 workers, and going at it 6 days a week steady.

Yesterday one guy didn't properly clean his facecut (I am guessing, one side closed early), the tree (8" dbh oak spar) hooked right as it fell, bounced and hit him in the face. He will have a big scar on his cheek, I am thankful it wasn't worse.

He has been carrying rushed, hurt back, and complaining energy for the past few weeks which culminated yesterday before this happened. I have been making effort to cheer him up, but it got to the point where I couldn't do any more. He rushed that fall, chipper turned up loud, little communication, and a combination of mistakes that are all simply avoided.

I almost told him that if his back hurts and he is bringing this bad energy, he should just take the day off, he should go home. But I know him well enough that he wouldn't do that. He came right back to work after bandaging his face. It's hardcore, fellas. I was making dumb moves cutting with only my lanyard and spikes just the day before. I am notoriously cautious on jobsites from siding, carpentry, installing, climbing, etc. And now the pace has been catching me too.

I am troubled by the lack of help, watching them try to hire ground helpers for over 8 months. Lucky we found one 21 year old guy who is awesome in his willingness to learn. Yet I keep reminding myself, he has only been doing this for a few months. He could have sent my tail into the chipper a couple times already I caught him.

This has been sitting with me a lot just these past couple weeks. Cutting down a hanger where the successful fall requires me cutting and jumping out of the way while a big log falls right where I was a moment ago. It's stuff that I am comfortable doing, yet these moves deserve our full attention and clarity of being before approaching, with risks understood and mitigated appropriately.

So much that happens in the world may not be fate, as they say, but deals in probabilities. You mentioned being in cars and such, which involve risks we accept every day. the simple seatbelt adjusts probabilities regarding potential danger in an accident. Every precaution we make adjusts these probabilities.

Thanks for sharing the post.
 
So to borrow a tool from oil and gas process industry, maybe try and have everybody spot something unsafe in a job. Talk about this at breaks, not in a blaming way. If you see one or two potential "fatals" (walking blithely under a suspended load, rope tail as mentioned above), it's time to shut 'er down for a couple of minutes and talk about where we're goin with this. TCIA or other tree orgs will use the safety triangle - incident at the top, lots of near misses or "oh look at that's" on the bottom. This is ALL predictable. We used "If it can happen it will" a lot in project design meetings. The experienced operators have seen it all and know it's only a matter of time if you run your worksite loosey goosey. Guys runnin' around on autopilot are a recipe for bad things to happen both in the air and on the ground (or driving - still the most hazardous part of a worker's job - or it should be - if they work for the O&G majors, as alluded to above).
Do the guys know what to do to work safely? If no, training/ equipment, etc. may be the answer.
If they do, what's preventing us from working that way?
Great thread at the right time I'd say!
 
Last edited:

Stumpsprouts

Branched out member
Location
Asheville
I was making dumb moves cutting with only my lanyard and spikes just the day before. I am notoriously cautious on jobsites from siding, carpentry, installing, climbing, etc. And now the pace has been catching me too.
You know this, but just to affirm. Don’t let their pace and their stress affect what you do. Those are their problems and not yours. Isolate your level of risk to the extent possible. Maintain your integrity, get home safe. Even if there’s a tree pinned on top of a bus load of nuns it isn’t going to benefit the situation to act in a hurry. Maintain integrity. Take all the time you need.

I go to the hardware store and I feel like the world is collapsing around me. But you got to keep doing what you know is the right thing to do.
 

southsoundtree

Been here a while
Location
Olympia, WA
... He could have sent my tail into the chipper a couple times already I caught him.

...
That's way too close of calls.
I suggest you don't allow a groundie to be able to snag your climb lines, and use breakaway points for hanging rigging lines in your saddle (zip ties).


My climbing rope went in the chipper once. ONCE!

An assortment of lengths allows the right size for various trees. I'm looking forward to chipping one for into two, when i get a replacement 200'.

Tying excess rope to trees can help, in some cases.
 

dspacio

Participating member
Location
Narragansett Bay
...
That's way too close of calls.
I suggest you don't allow a groundie to be able to snag your climb lines, and use breakaway points for hanging rigging lines in your saddle (zip ties).


My climbing rope went in the chipper once. ONCE!

An assortment of lengths allows the right size for various trees. I'm looking forward to chipping one for into two, when i get a replacement 200'.

Tying excess rope to trees can help, in some cases.

Thanks for all those ideas. the zip tie makes sense for a hectic situation.

In that case I was using a short line i think, 54', but up top in ddrt the tail was out there and the chipper was close. may or may not have reached. and get this, one time I sighted it and pulled my rope out, on his way. but he also admitted that he caught it one other time and released it himself. so it was twice! I really dig the dude. but he has not been managing my tail.. it's such a basic thing, to check the branches at the base now and then, as the brush falls. anyway, it has been heavy weeks.

it's worth adding to this thread; when i was told about how my great-grandad was killed by a falling tree, it was prefaced that as world war 2 started, a lot of his guys left and he was running shorthanded. he was using new machinery to make up for it and couldnt get out of the way because he was caught in the machine. he was 56, probably 40 years into logging and sawmilling. and what got him out of his element was surrounding quickness and pace.

I hold that with me for so many years, a determination to keep the day safe and without accident or screwups. That's why it is so profound for me to see myself falling to the trap.. Hopefully tomorrow it's just some fine hand pruning !
 

27RMT0N

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
WA
When I'm doing a removal where I'm just making it rain limbs, my rope is in a backpack but still setup in a way that I am tied in and ready to rap down if/when I need to. Nothing to get tangled, also nothing below waist level so I can't spur into my own rope either. In your context, nothing dangling to get pulled towards the chipper.

00 up spar, backpack.jpg
 

rico

Been here a while
Location
redwoods
When I'm doing a removal where I'm just making it rain limbs, my rope is in a backpack but still setup in a way that I am tied in and ready to rap down if/when I need to. Nothing to get tangled, also nothing below waist level so I can't spur into my own rope either. In your context, nothing dangling to get pulled towards the chipper.

View attachment 77231
I have been meaning to inquire about the boots you are wearing...What are they?
 

27RMT0N

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
WA
Lowa - Alpine Expert GTX.

I've only worn a small fraction of the boots you have I'm sure, but these are the best I've used so far. Narrow enough to be used for scrambling around the ground or pruning, stiff enough to work well on spurs since they are mountaineering boots made for crampons.
 

New threads New posts

Kask Stihl NORTHEASTERN Arborists Wesspur TreeStuff.com Kask Teufelberger Westminster X-Rigging Teufelberger Tracked Lifts Arbor Expo BayLeafDigital
Top Bottom