COMPANIES RUSH INJURED BACK TO WORK
Tree Report: Northern Area
There have been several Workers’ Compensation issues recently. The reluctance of the tree companies to report what look like minor injuries to field supervisors is understandable but flies in the face of state law. We have seen several injuries that appeared minor that turned out to be serious.
There is a perception on the part of the employees that they will lose their jobs if they report an injury. We have seen nurses from the Workers Compensation insurance carriers attend doctor visits and try to influence the course of treatment. The nurses do their best to get the worker back to work as soon as possible, in many cases before the worker has had time to heal. Many employees have English as a second language and feel threatened by these nurses, in many cases not understanding that the nurse represents the insurance company and may not have the worker’s interest as their first priority. We are letting the workers know when we learn of this.
“Penciling” of trees continues to be a problem. “Banking trees” is also far too common. Banking is trimming trees above the “goal” and saving them for days with “below goal” numbers of trees trimmed. Less common is the practice of giving trims to a crew that has not reached the “goal.” All of the above are violations of company policies and, when enforced, result in termination.
Progressions are starting to go a little smoother now that we have put together forms that ease our tracking of the issue and eliminate deniability by field supervision.
PG&E is reducing the tree inventory system-wide by removing many small trees and attempting to hold the pre-inspectors to list only trees that will be out of compliance within a year, not 14 or 16 months. The problem is we have had a great deal of rain this year and tree growth will be influenced. Tree growth can be very difficult to predict accurately. By reducing the tree inventory PG&E plans to divert the money saved to reliability work—trees that are more distant from the conductors but still a threat for various reasons.