From the Treetop: Rocky Palmer

September 22, 2013
By Rocky Palmer, Risk Manager

Have you heard “The Z” mentioned on the job or in the office at Wright Tree Service? “The Z” is a nickname for ANSI Z133, a standard that our industry must follow. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain what “The Z” is, and more specifically, how the standard affects your day-to-day job.

ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute, which is an organization that creates consensus standards for all industries in the United States. The Z133 number was assigned to cover Arboricultural Operations – Safety Requirements. Portions of the standard have been adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If OSHA does not have a code to address a specific part of an industry, they look to ANSI for clarification or direction.

The committee members who direct the ANSI Z133 standard include representatives of industry, labor, the academic community, government, equipment manufacturers, insurance carriers and other interested experts of the arboricultural industry. Wright Tree Service is a voting member of the committee.

So, are you wondering why you should know about “The Z”? ANSI Z133 exists to help employees make the safest decisions on the job site by outlining the safest way to go about our day-to-day jobs. When the committee members meet, they evaluate the standard to determine if all areas of risk associated with arboriculture operations have been addressed. If they identify an area that has not been addressed, a subcommittee meets to develop language that succinctly states what is to be done to reduce or eliminate a risk.

A lot of thought and consideration is put into the wording of each part of the standard. The committee even differentiates between the words “should” and “shall.” They use the word “should” if arborists have a choice in the matter, and “shall” if it is a mandatory action. For example, under section 4.2.5, the standard states, “Qualified line clearance arborists and line clearance arborist trainees shall maintain minimum approach distances from energized electrical conductors.” This is a mandate and therefore is not intended to be a choice.

After discussion of the wording, a vote is held to determine if it is acceptable to the 40 or so voting members. The final approved standard is intended to help each qualified line clearance arborist and arborist trainee to work as safely as possible.

From the perspective of safety at Wright Tree Service, we understand that culture drives the choices each of us make every day. We are fortunate that we have access to a consensus standard that addresses the needs of our business and can help each employee make the right choice, rather than what could be the wrong choice on their own, which could injure or harm our employees. The company makes the Z133 standard available to all employees in the Wright Tree Service Foreman’s Manual.

The standard is based on injures of the past and is intended to help us prevent injuries in the future. In order to do this, however, each of us needs to take the time and put in the effort to become familiar with the standard.