West Henrietta, NY—Lewis Tree Service is proud to have been awarded a prestigious safety award from the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) during its 2019 Winter Conference. The Outstanding Company Contribution award recognizes a TCIA member’s proactive program to address safety issues.
In September 2018, Lewis Tree Service began to usher in a groundbreaking, industry-changing, New View of Safety. Over the past 20 years, we have been in a safety system that focused on compliance. Our belief was, if our craftworkers followed all the rules, policies and procedures they/we would be incident-free. We now believe that is not entirely true. Over the years, we made significant improvements in our safety results and then hit a plateau achieving only marginal gains every year. We set zero-tolerance goals to eliminate lost-time incidents that were unachievable and demotivating.
We knew that true change was needed: a new view of safety and human performance that could radically shift the direction of our program and our safety culture. Instead of focusing on what we don’t want, we’re focusing now on what we want by becoming a culture of learning. While it may take years to adopt fully, we know in our hearts it’s the right thing to do and we’re committed to the journey.
With extraordinary vision and under the direction of Beth Lay, our Director of Safety and Human Performance, we are supersizing our culture of learning. Some of the highlights include breaking into groups to study Todd Conklin’s book Pre-Accident Investigations, proactively seeking serious injury potential “close call” stories to gather and share critical lessons that can keep others from getting hurt, building in thoughtful pauses in our work days to actively notice/manage risks and hazards, and changing the language around our After Action Reviews to include asking ourselves what surprised us the most and uncover what we learned.
Have you ever been on a job site where no incidents were occurring, but unsafe practices were present? Take a moment to think about that and let it sink in. Accidents may represent a lack of safety, but a lack of accidents does NOT represent safety.
At Lewis Tree Service, we track OSHA recordables and incident rates as lagging indicators, but we know they do not tell the entire story. Because of that, we’re redefining safety by its presence—not its absence—and learning how to improve safety by studying situations where it is present.
What’s more, we’re challenging old norms including our leadership response to failures. We are lifting blame and empowering others. We are recognizing that our team members are not the problem but rather the problem solvers. (People Are the Solution: our company theme for 2020!) Through all of this, we are learning a new language of safety in order to ensure we continue to build a culture of trust, learning and accountability.
In accordance with our shared values/operating principles, we are respectfully holding people accountable by engaging them to look forward to what must be done to repair, heal and improve. We’re focusing on what we do well in order to replicate the positive while gaining a better understanding of failure (i.e., deviation from an expected outcome). We are compiling and studying weak signals, error-likely situations, variability, ambiguity, mental models, and trade-off decisions.
As utility arborists, our work environments are complex and highly variable. Surprise will happen. Seemingly healthy ash trees may be riddled by EAB presenting extreme danger to a climber. A tiny limb may brush a wire in poor condition and explode causing an outage. An inexperienced worker may enter the drop zone to drag brush and be directly in the line of fire. Unfortunately, the possibilities are endless.
Industry-wide, we need to adapt to a wide variety of uncertain situations while ensuring that the number of successful outcomes in these varying conditions is as high as possible. It’s not enough to prevent “something bad” from happening; we must also make sure that “something good” happens often. In our new view, safety is achieved by making sure that as much as possible goes right.
We are on a mission-critical journey to embrace a new view of safety—and that’s exciting. Importantly, we’re happy to share our learnings. When it comes to safety, we’re all in this together.
About Lewis Tree Service: As one of the largest providers of utility vegetation management services in North America, Lewis Tree Service is a leader in safety, responsiveness and innovation. Lewis personnel work in support of many investor-owned utilities, electric co-op and municipal electric utilities, providing a wide range of vegetation management services and expertise including transmission and distribution utility line clearing and outage response resources. Whether working around-the-clock in a storm or reliably managing the ongoing line clearing needs of their customers, utilities count on Lewis to get the job done right. Lewis Tree Service is 100% employee-owned with approximately 4,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada.