“The confidence of amateurs is the envy of professionals”
Safe and efficient production tree work requires an understanding of absolute personal responsibility for your actions and decisions. This is a maturity that few people in our society today are prepared to accept. When things go wrong it is just so easy to point fingers. Most of us do not like to be held accountable, and many of us purposely steer clear of assuming responsibility, especially in a group setting. One of the marks of a true professional is a willingness to assume responsibility, to make decisions and take action. Ultimately, somebody has to go up in the air and get the work done.
Taking absolute responsibility for your own actions shows everyone around you that you are a person of integrity. The people that you work with will quickly learn that they can trust you to be an asset on the jobsite, helping to keep yourself, and everyone else, safe and productive. As others recognize your trustworthiness, your value to the crew and the organization increases tremendously. Taking absolute responsibility for your actions truly sets you apart from the pack.
The Importance of Pacing
I have been in countless work situations, especially during my own apprenticeship, where the atmosphere was just rush, rush, rush, get this done as quickly as possible so that we can rush to the next job. Whether this is coming from other members of the crew, or the foreman, or the employer, the reality is that safety is usually the first thing to be compromised in the name of speed. Most mistakes and accidents that I have seen over the years have been caused by working too fast for the situation.
When you find yourself in these hurried settings, you need to stop cutting, breathe deeply, and realize that you are 100% responsible for your actions. If someone were to get hurt, it would do you no good to say “well, you know, the boss wanted me to be working that fast. The chipper was running the entire time, I couldn’t communicate with the guys on the ground, it was just a crazy environment. This is not all my fault”. The fact of the matter is, if your actions result in property damage or someone getting hurt, including yourself, then I can assure you, the responsibility rests squarely on your own shoulders. Beyond that, if someone ever did get seriously hurt or killed because of a bad judgement call on your part, how could you ever forgive yourself and move on with your life and your career?
I have no problem with working quickly and efficiently, but I do have a problem with sacrificing safety for production speed. Whether its taking pieces that are too big, raining material down faster than the ground crew can handle it, making decisions too quickly, or cutting and rigging at a frantic speed to keep the boss happy, the reality is that working too fast is more dangerous than working at a good steady pace.
I once heard someone say “Go big or go home” vs. “Go small and go home”. I have used this quote countless times at work, both in talking to other arborists and ground crew as well as in my own self-talk. Ultimately, our goal as professionals is safe and efficient production tree work, day in and day out. One of the keys to sustaining a long career in this trade is pacing. If we are planning on working tomorrow, then why are we killing ourselves today? If a job takes 5 hours instead of 4 because we purposely paced ourselves and worked both smart and safe, then we are all better off. Being pressured by the boss to get every single job done as quickly as possible is unfair and very often leads to poor decision making. There is a fine line between working efficiently and working too fast. The bottom line is this: the job takes as long as it takes.
So, how do you differentiate yourself as a professional arborist? Here are some guidelines for personal responsibility in tree work:
- Never design a rigging system or make a cut that you are not prepared to take full responsibility for.
- Never use any piece of rigging or climbing gear that you don’t trust with your life.
- Never climb or rig any tree that you do not have a minimum degree of confidence in. Always listen to that little voice in the back of your mind and learn to trust your gut instincts.
- Never work faster than the ground crew can keep up. We are all on the same team, we all have the same objective.
Never blame others when things do not go right, you can always:
- Communicate better before cutting
- Place your tie-in points, rigging points and redirects in better spots
- Plan your sequence better through the tree
- Tie your rigging more intelligently
- Cut better or take smaller pieces
- Avoid rigging big until you have mastered rigging small
Take responsibility for your actions. When you are the one in the air doing the cutting, there will always be factors out of your control, but overall if something goes wrong, 99 times out of 100, it is your fault. Work at a pace that you know is safe, and work as a team with the entire crew on the same page. Personal responsibility is one of the cornerstones of being a true professional, in work as in life.
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