From the Treetop: Jim Lorrigan

August 10, 2015
by Jim Lorrigan, Safety Manager

I started with WTS 35 years ago, and as you can probably imagine, it was a much smaller company. Safety was talked about and expected but not nurtured and demanded as it is now. In some of the areas I worked, things like traffic control were almost seen as an option rather than mandatory, whereas now it’s second nature. Hi vis (high visibility) clothing, written job briefings and tailgate meetings were unheard of. Free climbing was not only expected but was encouraged, as it was an industry standard. One would clip a single action snap and rope to their saddle and climb up to the top of the tree, tie in and then start work – sometimes with climbing spikes and sometimes without. A lanyard held the big saw to the saddle if the work got too big for the handsaw. Was this a better time to be working? Not really. Was it more dangerous? Yes.

Even though we had fewer safety guidelines to follow years ago, there was less turnover and employees stayed in the business for a longer period of time, therefore creating a more experienced workforce. The position of a line clearance tree trimmer was more stable, I believe, because the electric utilities did not change contractors every few years. Today, safety supervisors spend a lot of time ensuring our more inexperienced workforce receives the necessary training to do their job safely and efficiently.

In my career, I have seen many good changes made to the industry. WTS has made it a priority to put our employees’ safety and wellbeing first by enforcing all of our approved work methods (AWMs) and empowering our safety supervisors to be constantly on the lookout for any AWMs in need of upgrading so that we’re up to date with industry and environmental changes.

That being said, all of these changes, policies and AWMs can’t protect everyone. It is known that every individual is responsible for his or her own safety. We can instruct our employees on how to do a specific task safely, but at the end of the day, the decision to do so later on is up to them. Many of our incidents are preventable if we only stop and think before we act.

Our Safety Education and Training department is always seeking ways to encourage employees to stop and think before acting in order to stay safe on the job. This year, we’ve rolled out flexible photo holders that velcro into a hardhat with the slogan, “WHY I WORK SAFE TODAY.” This encourages our employees to put a photo inside their hardhat of the person or reason that drives them to work safe every day. No matter the reason, a constant reminder might be all it takes to make the right decision when it comes to safety.

Together, we can help make this an even greater and safer company. Stay safe.