An interesting pattern emerged when we began analyzing close call data at Lewis Tree Service. When considering frequency, we learned that line of fire—by vehicle—has as much serious injury potential as struck-by, tree-related incidents. Yet, if you studied just our incident data, that picture would not emerge.
Our findings were reinforced by other industries. According to the U.S. DOT, from 2007 to 2017, 39% of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty were lost in traffic-related incidents. If officers have a police car on site with flashing lights, how much more vulnerable are our workers?
As we’ve spent significant time in 2020 discussing work zone protection and traffic control, our guidance to minimize the risk of being struck by passing motorists has shifted:
- When we set-up work zones, we often have our backs to oncoming cars. Inattentional blindness studies show that when we are focused on one thing (like setting up the work zone), we are blind to other things (like approaching cars). Key learning: Use a roadway spotter when placing cones, exiting vehicles, accessing bins, etc.
- We typically give flagger and spotter roles to new crew members in-training. While these roles may require lower technical skills than using a chainsaw or operating a bucket, they are essential to safety. Key learning: While flagger and spotter roles are less complicated, they are much more significant than the credit we give to them. We’re now rolling out tools to qualify spotters, emphasize the importance of the position, train how to explore risks and spot problems before they happen, and check for understanding.
The extreme criticality of close call reporting is clear. It guides our safety and human performance strategy and helps keep our craftworkers from serious injury.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of the UAA Utility Arborist Newsline.