I read a great deal. I travel a good bit as well, which then becomes a cycle of reading, travel, reading travel.. I also have the privilege of working with excellent arborists from around the globe and engaging in. conversations ranging from work, to fitness to… well whatever.
The text below is an interesting perspective on the arboriculture industry, our attitudes and interpretations of incidents. I enjoyed it and hope you will to. Thanks, Craig Bachman for allowing me to include it and for your insight. For some reason I could not post the original link, but if you would like more from Craig look him up at Tree133 on Facebook among other social media sites.
Today, I found myself thinking about two words: euphemism and rationalize. Bear with me… these both relate to arboriculture, I promise.
a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.
attempt to explain or justify one’s behavior or attitude with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate.
As a contract climber, I spend time in the field with lots of tree workers at many different companies. Each company has it’s own culture. Through these experiences, I’ve noticed a common and concerning theme – a very casual attitude about the risks of working with chainsaws.
This attitude was illustrated by a comment on the jobsite the other day. After showing the 6-inch scar on his left forearm, the individual said to me:
“I was pushing over a top and tickled my arm with the saw.”
Hmmmm… Tickled? Seriously? Not cut. Not injured. Not lacerated. Just tickled????
So, here’s where the first word applies. A euphemism is a coping mechanism. It enables one to intentionally understate something unpleasant or embarrassing. Plus, it sounds way more badass to say, “I tickled his arm with a saw” rather than “I received a near-fatal injury from a power tool.” This is particularly true if that injury is the result of using the tool in a dangerous way.
And now for that second word: Rationalize. Telling “war stories” is part of the culture in tree work. I get that. However, when we show off scars and explain them with euphemisms, we normalize that experience – like somehow cutting yourself with a chainsaw is normal. This is just rationalizing a dangerous behavior, and it’s is a huge problem.
Put yourself in the shoes of a new person in our industry. You are settling in with the crew and begin hearing stories – and seeing scars – from chainsaw injuries. You watch the “experienced” guys cutting one-handed in the tree, cutting without chaps on the ground, and it all seems normal. You’ve never seen anything different. Little do you know, the stories and scars are the direct results of these risky behaviors.
And what about those funny euphemisms? They just hide the blood and screaming, the tourniquet, the stitches, the pain killers, the days off of work, and the possibility that next time that chainsaw injury might be fatal.
So what can we do about all this? How can we be a positive influence on our coworkers? How can we reduce the risk of injury to ourselves and others?
It’s pretty simple. Do the right thing. Wear your PPE. Put two hands on the saw. If something goes wrong, be honest about the experience. Most importantly, let’s stop rationalizing avoidable injuries and hiding behind euphemisms. It is NOT normal to cut oneself with a chainsaw. We are better than this.
Work Smart. Work Safe. Go Home.
Ps. Chainsaws are awesome tools that make our work so much easier. They are essential to modern arboriculture. Of course, they are also the world’s most-dangerous power tool. According to research by Dr. John Ball, the average chainsaw injury requires 110 stitches and costs $12,000. Please use them with the caution they deserve.