ArborTimes Winter 2023

“Many might agree that the most significant problem facing our industry today is unsafe practices.”

Incentivizing Safety Compliance in the Tree Care Industry


You know that old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?” The spirit of this ad- age closely mirrors the problem with safety compliance in our industry. Why are so many horses (tree peo- ple) unwilling to drink, even when led to the water? How can we motivate them? What incentives can we provide to overcome the common barriers to adoption? Many might agree that the most sig- nificant problem facing our industry today is unsafe practices. These un- safe practices result in our industry’s near-permanent position within the top three most-deadly industries. But is our industry that much more dan- gerous than others? Or, is this dubi- ous distinction resulting from unsafe practices that could easily be replaced with safer alternatives? How do we convince folks to prioritize safety? Using cut-resistant leg protection as an example, we will identify some com- mon objections to safety compliance and discuss different incentives that may help us close on those objections.

the punishment category (the stick) we have both regulatory compliance (OSHA fines) and company perfor- mance-management programs such as write-ups and withholding bonus- es. We will focus our discussion here on the use of reward-centered incen- tives (the carrot). THE CARROT In the carrot category, we might have company purchasing incentives. These can be hit or miss depending on the approach a company takes. Businesses purchasing chaps for em- ployees may find that their employees are not using them even though they were provided. When I was contract climbing throughout the south, I found chain- saw protection usage to be uncom- mon. I asked folks why they wouldn’t wear chainsaw protection and the responses were predictable. Common complaints included overheating, limited range of motion or the percep- tion that they were simply unneces- sary, lame or even “uncool.” However,

David O’Neill

CARROT AND STICK PHILOSOPHY Let’s start by discussing how we currently motivate folks to be safer. Traditionally, motivation follows the old “carrot and stick” philosophy. The carrot approach provides some reward and the stick approach pro- vides some form of punishment. In

“When I was contract climbing throughout the south, I found chainsaw protection usage to be uncommon.”

ArborTIMES Winter 2023 | 33

Made with FlippingBook - professional solution for displaying marketing and sales documents online