As a tree service professional, work zone safety is a top priority and should be kept at the forefront of your mind every minute you’re working.
Tree service workers climb great heights, direct traffic on busy streets, perform groundwork, and operate potentially dangerous equipment. They must be alert and ready to react at any given moment.
Safety begins before crews even arrive at the job site, when the prep work begins for the job that day.
There are a few important observations to consider:
- What is the worksite like?
- Is the work to be performed near a busy road?
- What potential hazards could the crew’s equipment present?
- Are there pedestrians nearby?
- What dangers could the drop zone present?
Before setting up a work zone, it’s essential to consider the answers to those questions and possibly a few others. It’s always best to anticipate the worst thing that could happen and be prepared rather than have it catch you off guard.
With that in mind, here are some other things you can do to improve work zone safety for your tree service crew.
Assemble Your Crew for a Work Zone Safety Meeting
More than 700 people are killed in work zone accidents every year. This highlights the importance of implementing a safety-first campaign for your tree service business.
The first step of work zone safety is getting everyone involved in the job on the same page. There’s an old safety motto that states, “Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent.”
We agree with the sentiment. Here are some ideas to put into action.
- Discuss concerns with your crew once you analyze the site while posing some of the questions we asked above. Decide what your crew members need to be looking and watching for when working the area.
- Next, walk through the plan of action, step by step, and decide how the work will be performed and what each person’s role will be to execute the job. All positions are essential, and every crew member has to work together. Ensure that there are no unanswered questions and nothing left open for interpretation.
- Lastly, discuss how long you expect the job to take. If the job lasts several days, the site may have to be kept safe even while the crew isn’t present. This can include things like using caution tape to secure an area. You might also have to block a sidewalk until the work is finished or flag tree stumps to prevent lawn mower damage or keep people from tripping.
At the end of the day, it wouldn’t hurt to review some of the safety guidelines you’ve already discussed while also coming up with new safety strategies that might make sense now that you’ve been at the work site for a day.
Drop Zone Safety is Paramount in the Tree Service Industry
Acknowledging objects within the drop/fall zone of a tree removal job is important. This should always be at the forefront of your crews’ minds, particularly your tree climbers.
When assessing objects below trees, it’s reasonably apparent which things you should take into consideration. Things like structures, people, pools, traffic, and roadways stand out. But there are other things to consider in the drop zone. These include:
- Other items that might be important to the client, like the landscaping of their property.
- Children or pets that could quickly dart into the hazard area of your work zone.
- Underground considerations that large falling logs or trunks could impact. This can include irrigation (usually closer to the surface), poorly installed gas and water lines, or septic fields. The likelihood of damage to some of these underground objects is low but should always be considered. When in doubt, call 811 before doing the job. In fact, any time your crews will have to break ground, you should call 811 as a precaution.
Don’t Forget Proper PPE to Keep Your Tree Service Crew Safe
Proper PPE is vital for all tree service professionals because it can potentially save a life. Not only do crews want to ensure they have all the PPE required for the job, but crew members also need to inspect their PPE daily.
Here are some things to look out for:
- Some PPE, like hard hats, contain date codes that give a use-by date. PPE equipment shouldn’t be used beyond that date.
- Inspect fabric PPE, such as chaps and gloves, for tears that could minimize the integrity of the protection. For instance, holes or loose fabric could pose an opportunity to catch onto things, causing a fall or hazard around powerful equipment like wood chippers.
- Ensure that ear and eye protection are in proper working order.
Remember that some jobs will require more PPE to meet OSHA & ANSI safety standards, like worksites near roadways and railroads. Be sure to go prepared to your work zone with proper, up-to-date PPE to increase safety for you and your work crew.
Always Be Aware of Traffic and People Around Your Worksite.
When working around traffic, you should establish the drop zone for the work being performed. This will be the area that will need to be secured with cones and crew members to guide and stop traffic and pedestrians as your work crew does the job.
A rule of thumb for setting up cones is that whatever the speed limit is, then that should be the distance between the cones in feet. So, if the speed limit is 25MPH, the cones should be 25 feet apart.
Traffic flaggers should stand in safe areas along the shoulder while still being seen by the upcoming traffic to guide them. Proper equipment for flaggers should be used. This includes high visibility PPE, ‘Stop’/’Slow’ or ‘Tree Work Ahead’ signs, and traffic cones.
All crew members should also have Walkie Talkies to communicate with one another easily.
Flaggers should also be alert at all times and have excellent critical thinking skills. Guiding traffic is a mundane task, and it’s easy to become complacent. Remind your flagging personnel to watch for surprises like bikers, animals, children, and other unexpected road traffic.
Accidents involving “struck by” incidents are high in the tree service industry. Flaggers can quickly get struck by a vehicle, while members of the public are also at risk of a fallen tree or limb if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
All crew members need to do their part to prevent these things from happening, but flaggers are often the first line of defense to achieve higher safety standards on the road near the work zone.
Equipment & Truck Safety is Also Important
Once work begins, crews should be mindful of the equipment used on the job, whether in use or not. This is to protect your workers and other people.
Here are some key things to remember:
- When parking trucks and equipment, use the emergency brakes in vehicles to prevent them from rolling. Ensure that all equipment won’t be prone to moving while unoccupied.
- Instruct your employees on the proper safety depth for chippers. Provide your employees with safety classes about machine and stumper safety and make it a requirement that they attend. They should be educated about the risks involved in operating these machines and the complexity of their function. You might even get a discount on your tree service insurance when you can offer proof that safety is a top priority for your tree service business.
- It’s always best to shut off equipment that isn’t being used. Public safety should always be a prime consideration.
- Avoid leaving chippers or other equipment running unsupervised in and around the work zone.
Work zone safety in your tree service business is a must. Having a few safety rules in place will help ensure a job is finished successfully while minimizing the risks to your crew and the general public.
Crews should always think ahead and be prepared. As the owner of a tree service company, you can mitigate risks by having meetings before work to offer general instruction and encourage safety to your crew members.
It’s always a good idea to ensure that your crew members are all on the same page and better prepared to react more responsibly to unforeseen events.
Tree service work can’t be safely executed without teamwork and a proper plan to help things go smoothly.
Carrying the right tree service insurance coverage is the best way to protect your business in the event of an incident.