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Primary ITO: Knowledge to grow

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How Qualifications Can Help Arborists Stay Safe at Work

27 February 2018

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Climbing tall trees and wielding chainsaws is a dangerous business, so health and safety is a top priority for employers such as Franklin Trees.

The family-owned company employs over 50 staff in the horticultural and arboricultural sector, based in Auckland, Pukekohe and Hamilton, and help clients manage all their landscape and vegetation needs.

Franklin’s Business Development Manager, Rick Mexted, says the introduction of WorkSafe and the new Health and Safety at Work Act last year has resulted in big changes for arboricultural businesses everywhere.

“Training is becoming a major component now in the workplace. Not only is it important to provide a form of qualification or certification of tasks, but you have to be able to demonstrate current competency.

“Our clients need to make sure we’re competent to carry out high risk tasks before they hire us,” Rick explains. “Workplace training and qualifications are the best way to prove that our staff are competent.”

Franklin Trees has partnered with Primary ITO to deliver on-the-job training to its staff for many years. Currently five employees are completing their Level 4 advanced arboricultural apprenticeships, and several more are working on Level 2 and 3 horticultural qualifications.

“Qualifications and competencies go hand in hand now and it certainly helps in today’s health and safety environment. It helps you prove that you’re investing in your staff and keeping them up-to-date with industry standards.”

Rick says many new staff have little or no experience in the arboricultural or horticultural sector. But Franklin Trees is happy to invest time and money to train them as long as they have a good work ethic and are willing to learn.

“It’s definitely an advantage to see your staff grow and progress. Hopefully you can retain them and utilize the new skills they have learnt. That’s the big hope.”

Rick (who used to be an ITO training advisor and Otago Polytech lecturer), says the Primary ITO model offers a number of benefits to both the business and the trainee.

“Primary ITO offer flexibility with their training which is great. It can fit in with the employer, the employer doesn’t have to fit in with the training.”

The training advisors are “fantastic” and really understand the reality of the industry and the job, he says.

“On-the-job training works really well with the odd training day thrown in there. We get a lot of pre-warning and the timetable is put together a long way in advance so you can programme work around it. That’s really beneficial to us.”

Thanks to its vigilance and focus on training, Franklin Trees’ safety record remains intact.

“Touch wood, to date as a business we haven’t had any serious accidents. In fact, the tree industry as a whole has a very high safety record compared to the forestry and construction sectors. That is why training and compliance is so important and the Primary ITO is playing a part in this.”