Every day, line clearance tree trimmers work with and around chainsaws, energized power lines, falling trees, wood chippers, bucket trucks, wild animals and countless other occupational hazards. It’s a profession that’s rife with potential for life-threatening accidents, which is why IBEW 1245 launched the “Keep the Clearance” (KTC) peer safety program several years ago.
KTC is designed to empower tree trimmers to recognize and address potential safety hazards on the job in order to prevent accidents from occurring at work. This year, the KTC Committee has ramped up its peer presentation program, holding seven different worksite safety presentations throughout the northern area and Central Valley during the first half of the year, with plans to hold an additional five presentations in the Bay Area before the end of 2016.
The KTC “peer safety tour” is a cooperative effort between IBEW 1245, the tree companies and PG&E (the primary customer for the tree companies). The goal is to put out a consistent message about safety to all tree trimmers.
“By working together with the tree companies and PG&E to strengthen communication, we can more effectively address safety matters,“ said IBEW 1245 Business Representative Rich Lane. “It’s one thing to say ‘be safe’ to a tree trimmer, but when we demonstrate that we are all a part of a unified safety culture, that can really make a difference.”
“We Can All Work Safe”
At an early-morning bilingual safety presentation for Trees Inc. members in Stockton, KTC committee members Rosario Garcia and Carlos Rodriguez delivered an important message to the room of more than 30 union members. That message centered on staying alert and aware of possible safety hazards, both on and off the job, and not being afraid to speak up if someone on the crew is working in an unsafe manner.
KTC Committee member Carlos Rodriguez has been a tree trimmer for 19 years, and has witnessed his fair share of close calls. He joined the Keep the Clearance Committee about three years ago because he recognizes how important it is to keep members informed about the risks they encounter and actions they can take to keep themselves and their co-workers safe.
“The value that I see in doing these presentations is providing education to the members. We’ve got to take care of our own people,“ said Rodriguez. “Sometimes [tree trimmers] can feel pressured to go faster and faster to up that tree count, and they start to take shortcuts. That’s why we need to do this kind of education, to get in their minds that we can all work safe, and that’s what’s important.”
Rosario Garcia is a tree trimmer for Trees Inc., and works directly with most of the people who attended the Stockton presentation. He underscored that more often than not, accidents at work can be prevented with a keen eye and a few words of caution.
“If you start really paying attention [to potentially dangerous situations], it can change your whole mindset – not just at work, but also at home,” Garcia told the room full of tree trimmers.
Rodriguez also noted that the language barrier can contribute to the potential for hazardous situations at work, which is why he served as a makeshift translator during the safety presentation. The attendees themselves pointed out several other factors that they’ve encountered which can increase the chances of an accident, such as overconfidence, distraction and time pressure.
“This was a great, really eye-opening presentation, “ tree trimmer Jose Romero said after the Stockton presentation. “We need to know all of the things that might happen, before something major does happen. And it’s great to hear that [the union] cares about our safety.”