“If safety is a joke, then death is the punchline.” — Paul Laforest
I was totally appalled in February when I read that two men had been killed working in palm trees in Las Vegas within a couple weeks and a couple of miles of each other. It was an incredible tragedy and I contacted Juan Barba right away to ask him to cover the topic in this month’s issue. Then to add insult to injury, I read Dennis Swartzell’s article and saw that one of the workers had “recreational” drugs in his system.
His opening paragraphs are tinged with emotion for good reason. As Green Industry professionals, it is so frustrating to see these terrible events continue to happen. After covering this industry for close to 25 years (geez…has it really been that long?), it sometimes feels that we are in the same place we were when I started.
It’s ironic. I was at a meeting of an environmental group yesterday and the almost the same topic came up. How do we get a message out? How do we get younger people involved? What means do we use to reach out and spread the word about an important issue?
Safety is a huge issue with our professional associations. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and Tree Care Industry Association have dedicated countless hours (and dollars) to safety issues on a national/global scope. On a regional level, the Western, Utah and Rocky Mountain Chapters of ISA all sponsor many educational opportunities that cover safety. Even more locally, the Southern Nevada Arborist Group has been talking safety for 20 years.
So why aren’t we getting through? It’s fairly obvious that a big part of the problem is that our industry is an easy one to get started in with little or no training. Just get yourself a mower or a chain saw and, voila! You are a lawn care or tree care business! And chances are you will be “too busy” to invest any time in training or education.
And unfortunately, there will always be eager customers lining up to save a few bucks by hiring an untrained, unlicensed, uninsured “contractor” to take care of their landscapes and trees. It’s the whole chicken-and-egg thing with tragic consequences.
We’ve had this discussion many times and it almost always goes back to the property owner. As long as they are hiring, there will be untrained low-ballers lining up to take their money.
I’ve found one of the best incentives for homeowners is pointing out that if someone gets hurt on their property (or pretends to), their insurance is 100-percent liable if the contractor is uninsured. This is usually met with great surprise.
So how do we get the word out? Newspapers don’t seem to do the trick. What about social media? Well, that seems to reach a few, but not all. Regular broadcast television is very expensive and doesn’t seem to reach that many people anymore either. Many people prefer U-Tube. What about U-Tube? Well, there are many safety sessions posted there as well.
It would seem that “all of the above” might be the way to go. It’s so frustrating, but we really can’t give up, can we?
As Green Industry professionals, it is up to us to keep hammering away at this issue. The old saying is that “even if is only saves one ife…” And hopefully, keeping up on the outreach will do that. Maybe instead of two palm tree climbers that were killed in January, there might have been three had it now been for our efforts! Let’s hope that if we are diligent, we can chip away at these tragedies one life at a time.