War zone / Communication

Could communicating on a tree service job site be similar to a war zone? What's the solution?

On our job site, it’s impossible to verbally communicate with one another. Saws are screaming. Chippers are blasting audible violence. Massive engines quake the Earth all day. Aerial workers are deployed anywhere from 10 to 150 feet or more above the ground.

A funny thing happened to me when I tried to communicate in the war zone. I talked loud. Nobody heard. I yelled. Nobody heard. I screamed. Nobody heard. I got mad. Funny, nobody heard.

“Why can’t anyone hear me screaming?”

“Can’t they see that they’re doing it WRONG?”


Me, blaming others for not hearing. Others, blaming me for not hearing. Is your workplace a war zone?

We held meetings. I told guys we’d use hand signals. Hand signals were given. Nobody saw. Hand signals were given aggressively. Nobody saw. I got mad. Funny, nobody saw.

Time passed.

I thought the guys had forgotten about my questions. Then one day our newest employee passed me a sheet of paper. On it were his responses:

1. “Work on anger, ex. – no swearing/yelling; need more experience with saw, ex. – handling + maintenance; need to be more aware of what I should be doing, where I should be, and how I can make the job easier on me and everyone else. Keep practicing with knots”

2/3. “we should chip in together on 3-way radios for better communication when necessary” Just one suggestion. That’s it. And the least experienced worker in our company solved his own problem. He solved my problem. He solved our problem.

Every one of us is different. Every one of us is the same.

Within one month our whole crew was equipped with push-to-talk radios. Now nobody needs to talk loud, yell, scream, make hand signals aggressively or get mad to be heard. Our whole crew can now focus on being more aware of what we should be doing, where we should be, and how each of us can make the job easier on ourselves and everyone else. We’re safer, more efficient and a stronger team than ever before. The war is over.

Mic check, mic check. You hear me?

PS – That employee has since moved on from Team Precision but the impact still remains. We now use a superior SENA Bluetooth communication system which offers improved functionality over the push-to-talk radios we reviewed here.

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