Safety and Training Find Common Ground
By Codie Anderson, Safety Manager of WTSCA
It has been almost a year since ArborCare joined the Wright Tree Service (WTS) family in May of 2019. In that time, we have seen how remarkably similar tree work (and tree workers) in the United States and Canada can be. Stories shared from both sides of the border share a common theme: the trees get bigger and the drop zones get smaller every time they are told! Despite the similarities, there are a few key differences too. Utility tree work in Canada is highly regulated in many areas. Some provinces have their own certification programs for trimmers, and some adopt a regional certification. What is almost universal is the extensive training and certification required before a worker is deemed competent to lead work in proximity to energized conductors.
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba require certification as a UTT (Utility Tree Trimmer) or UTW (Utility Tree Worker) in order to run a line-clearance crew. The difference between a UTT and a UTW is that a UTT can work at heights (climbing or running an aerial), while a UTW is restricted to work completed from the ground – slashing (felling) or running a mow crew. The interesting part is they both must complete the same two-week course. All candidates require a minimum of 1,200 hours on the job before they can attend the program. Graduates must then complete a total of 2,400 hours of work under a UTT or UTW in order to be eligible for certification. The UTT requires at least half of those hours to be work at heights, while the UTW’s hours can all be accumulated on the ground. Three days of training are required every five years to renew.
In British Columbia, there is a mandatory apprenticeship for trimmers. Apprentice candidates must complete a six-week training program before they are permitted to trim or remove trees under the direction of a Certified Utility Arborist (CUA). They have to accumulate 2,378 hours of on the job training under a CUA and complete another two-week training program before they can be declared certified and eligible to run a crew. This certification never expires.
Regardless of where in the country you work, ongoing proof of competency is a growing concern. Even the renewal process in Alberta doesn’t take the place of job observations, performance reviews, and regular on-the-job training. Earning your UTT or CUA certificate doesn’t necessarily mean you know everything, any more than earning a driver’s license guarantees everyone is always a good driver. Good work habits, a willingness to learn, and a strong safety culture like we enjoy at WTS are common denominators of great trimmers and great companies no matter which side of the border you are on.
This article was published in “Our Family Tree,” a section of the Wright Service Corp. biannual newsletter, The Wright Perspective. Read the full newsletter here.