In this edition of the Climbers Corner, I wanted to highlight a key component of identifying a passionate tree climber. An immediate clue is to see if the person climbing your trees is thinking about their own personal safety. Do they have a helmet on? It seems like such a simple question, maybe a no-brainer (because that’s what the helmet is doing, protecting that brain) but it’s something that our industry battles regularly.
Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is our first line of defense against the risks and hazards we climbers are subjected to each and every day. Sure, we have standards that are set forth by government agencies to ensure that employees are protected by their employers, but when the rubber meets the road, it comes down to the individual caring enough about protecting themselves to put the helmet on.
It’s always been a challenge at times in the industry to get people to buy into this concept. Whether it’s a helmet, safety glasses, ear protection, or chainsaw protection, the person has to believe in what the equipment does for them to allow for a long and injury-free career aloft. The crux of the issue, though, has always been how to get people to believe in it without having an experience that wakes them up to the reality of what we’re exposed to. In my experience, the best way to get that buy-in from people is to make them feel cool in it. Not necessarily cool in a temperature sense, but cool in a Ron Burgundy sense of “Hey everyone, come see how good I look!”
Think about it. When we get dressed for the day, are we thinking about how we present ourselves to the world? Do we want to display to the world the type of person we are with what we wear? How many times have you changed shirts before walking out the door because you didn’t like the way it vibed with your appearance? I know this is something I do. When I think about myself as a climber, it’s no different.
Think about football: Everyone on the team is wearing a uniform and, for the most part, everyone looks the same. It helps them know in an instant who is on their team and who isn’t. Super important, but if you zoom in and look closely, you’ll notice that while everyone is wearing the same jersey, pants, and helmets, each player inserts a piece of individual flare to help them feel like themselves, to look cool. Some players have a different face shield on their helmet. Some players have unique cleats of all different colors so as they run down the field, they really stand out on TV. The point being, everyone is on the same team, yet there is a personal decision to add something to their uniform to make them feel cool. They stand out, and it helps them perform better because they’ve bought into what they’re doing. They feel cool.
So, how does this tie into what I’m talking about? If I think about Truetimber specifically, we’re all out there rocking our red shirts with the TT logo on our back. We’re pretty much all wearing the same style of pants and boots, but what really allows us to get creative in our personal touch though, is that helmet. The different safety glasses. The neat-looking chainsaw pants. Different styles and colors, face shields or visors, stickers, etc. It may not seem like much, but it’s in this effort to make PPE cool again. If it’s cool, then people will wear it. Helmets help to keep our brain nestled nicely inside our head, unscathed from the constant bonking on branches or pieces of equipment. It’s not that we’re constantly head-butting things, but the nature of our work takes us into environments that are not overly friendly to humans.
Eye, ear, and head protection are critical in helping professional arborists maintain a long and prosperous career aloft. The longer we climb, the more we realize how important these pieces of equipment truly are. Wearing chainsaw protection for our legs when cutting with a saw on the ground is awesome because of how it protects us. Those saws cut through wood and laugh at the soft nature of our bodies. We wear that saw protection to keep the sharp stuff away from the soft stuff. We don’t want to find this out the hard way, so again, we try to make it cool.
At times it’s inconvenient and honestly kinda miserable to wear this stuff. Especially in the heat of the Richmond summer, adding layers adds a level of sweat that’s rivaled by few, but we wear PPE to protect ourselves anyway because we know it’s the right thing to do. We know it protects us from the risks we’re subject to. And when I think about what’s cool, being able to show up every day to keep climbing trees without injury is about the coolest thing I could do.
So, when you’re considering hiring a company to climb your trees, take a look: Do they have a helmet on? Are they wearing the basic pieces of equipment that prioritize their own safety? Do they care enough to protect themselves against the risks? I truly hope so. As a climber, I won’t leave home without my PPE. Personally, I want to do this for a long time, and this is the first step to take each day to ensure I accomplish that goal. As a group, this step sets a tone for the day, the week, the month, and the rest of our lives. It tells everyone on site, the community, and the world that we care. That we care enough about ourselves and our fellow tree climbers that we want to be here tomorrow. To be honest, it’s a beautiful thing and I want to see more of it. Wear your lid, protect your brain, and live to climb another day.