The Tree Care Industry and COVID-19

Updated July 8, 2020

TCIA advises our members to check back to this page often for updates on actions by Congress and other COVID-19 news that may impact the tree care industry. Many of the links on this website will bring you to outside websites.

Member Responses

As TCIA hears from our members across the U.S., we are compiling some responses to the new business environment and its challenges. TCIA has also implemented Regional Virtual Round Tables sessions twice a week, bringing members together to encourage, support and connect.

Shared Work Places

  • Crew members can drive separate vehicles, client communication can be over the phone or email.
  • All safety meetings are now outside. We have set crews with set trucks. This is a challenge but I feel that I have an obligation to have our folks receive a paycheck and to give them tools to be safe in their environment
  • Our CEO has been getting updates out to all employees at least twice weekly, including educational information not only sanitation and hygiene relation but preventative stress and diet suggestions to protect overall health...just to name a few. Like already mention it's about our people and their families.
  • We are stagger starting all crews and ensuring social distancing in every aspect of our offices
  • We have a 12-week backlog that gives us a lot of opportunity to keep everyone working, so we are just doing our best to make our office clean and safe, and letting them take extra trucks for personal space
  • Most are working from home both here at HQ and admin personal in our field offices. Travel ban for all those who travel and have incorporated technology-driven interactive meetings with all managers a couple of times a week.. 
  • all sales and office staff are working remotely. Crews are still working. We are preparing though for a national lock-down
  • We are also very concerned in our small business. We’ve had a safety meeting explaining measures that we want them to take in order to minimize possible transmission

Client Interactions/Communications

  • We've communicated with all customers that we will not be performing our pre-job walkthrough with clients and of course calling every client prior to coming to the
    property.
  • To our valued customers: Like many organizations, XXXX has procedures and precautions in place in response to the COVID-19 virus, which have been in place for about the past two weeks.  Maintaining the health and safety of our employees, clients, subcontractors and vendors is of the utmost importance to us.

    Developments over the weekend regarding the virus have pushed a threshold level of procedures and precautions that XXXXX implemented first thing this morning.   Our stance at XXXXX is to continue to operate our business based on fact, not fear, as we continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation.  Procedures and precautions put into effect as of this morning are as follows:

    Continue social distancing practices.  The very nature of our business lends itself well to effective social distancing once we arrive at our job sites.

    Only personnel that will be driving a company vehicle will report to the XXXXX shop/office in the morning.  There will be no other occupants in any company vehicles.  All company vehicles were cleaned and disinfected this morning by the driver of each vehicle.  All drivers will then continue to clean and disinfect their company vehicle daily.  No other employee will enter a company vehicle other than the driver of that vehicle.

    All other employees not driving a company vehicle will not report to the XXXXX shop/office each morning.  Rather, they will leave from their home and report to their job site.

    We will continue to clean and disinfect our shop and office space on a daily basis.

    Machine operators will clean and disinfect the operator cab in the same manner as our company vehicles.

    Shared tools and equipment such as hand tools, chainsaws, etc. will be cleaned and disinfected each time the user is changed and as many times as necessary throughout the day.

    Our company has always had precautions and procedures in place for field hand cleaning by using anti-bacterial wipes and we will continue that practice.  We have increased our level of hand cleaning to include a fresh water (newly purchased) vessel in the back of all trucks that is labeled appropriately, color “coded” and designated as a hand washing water source only (not to be consumed).  Each freshwater vessel will have anti-bacterial soap in liquid pump dispensers attached.

    Trash and debris removal will continue; however, we will not enter homeless encampments whether occupied or not for the time being.  Exception:  where needed our bio-hazard team will be ready to be dispatched.  We will also be using different trash bags for one time use only along with the use of nitrile gloves under our work gloves.
    Shared items such as ice from our ice machine at our shop and job site drinking water in 5-gallon water coolers will not be used for the time being.  Rather, each employee will have an adequate supply of personal drinking water each day as it is imperative that we all stay hydrated.

    We have asked our employees to postpone travel for the time being.
     
    Bottom line is that XXXXX will do our part to limit the spread of the virus while continuing to operate by using the above procedures and precautions to help minimize person to person contact.  Our hours and services will remain the same.
     
    On behalf of all of us here at XXXXXX, we extend our best wishes to all of you and hope for a speedy recovery from the inconveniences and disruptions that the novel virus is causing personally and professionally.  Should you have any questions or any other suggestions regarding best management practices please contact me directly.

 

Continued Operations

  • I have suspended my operation. We will reply to emergency services. I’m trying to take a long view on this. I employ 40 people. If one of them gets it, it could run through the company which could be disastrous.
  • My team keeps going back to our Core Focus: paraphrasing 'taking care of our team, our clients and our communities'. Who would have thought our work using EOS would be our anchor..,
  • XXXXXXX gives 3 sick days per year and I’ve increased that to 5 days paid out over two weeks. So two weeks at half pay. I will cut my pay in half for two weeks as well if we have a government enforced shut down or I get sick. In addition, I’m am thinking about allowing people to use vacation time they have not already accrued but will accrue over the season. This one is a bit risky especially if someone quits after using it or wants more time off in the summer after taking it in the spring. I have not discussed this with anyone.

    This is also a terrible time of year to use your vacation time in XXXXXX. We are just coming out of winter. The backroads are covered in mud and we worked in half-snow half-frozen lawn yesterday. I can’t imagine using my only vacation for the year when the weather goes from ice to mud and back again, but this may be the reality.

    It is also by far our leanest time of year for cash, so this virus could not have picked a worst time. Fortunately, we are coming off several strong years and I’ve saved hard. I didn’t save planning for a pandemic, more to pay down debt or find a good deal on a machine, but some of that cash is heading towards keeping my great team intact. I consider all of them friends as well as employees and I’m going to help in whatever way I can, but I just haven’t formulated a concrete plan.
  • We are also lucky to have a strong personal & business savings. We have decided to suspend our owners draws & just take our paychecks for the time being... we can always make it up. I am meeting with our bank to discuss increasing our line of credit, we haven't used it in years & I hope we won't have to, but it can't hurt ;) We were looking to hire heavy this spring, but will have to see how everything goes. We have made necessary purchases and property improvements, but again will wait & see on the rest. I have offered our admin to bring her kid to work on days she doesn't have someone to watch her. We have 2 employees registered for the CTSP class coming up in Chicago & they have both expressed that they don't feel safe going, so I have reached out to TCIA and hope they can go to a later class.

    We have only had a few people cancel services so far because they aren't working & I hope that stays manageable.
  • Stay calm. Pay attention, strive for social distancing, if healthy, keep working until you cannot. Communicate your payroll concerns with your team. We are in unchartered waters and collectively will figure out the best way forward. We all in same boat and will be stronger for it in long run. Do the best you can under these circumstances.
  • Also on the other side of the cash equation we are hammering on collections and considering giving a discount for people to pay early so we can have cash flow before everyone runs out of money. If we lay off, I think we will choose to completely layoff certain individuals rather than giving everyone part-time work, so that those people can get full unemployment. Not quite sure what to do yet, we’re going to work as long as we can!
  • We are continuing to work. I have communicated clearly we are in a good place, working outdoors and in the sunshine. We Should All Give Thanks. That said, the strategy in place at XXXXXX was rolled out the day after Woohan had mandatory stay at home. San Fran is on shut down, it is not unreasonable to think it could happen to Chicago. That said, lets prune trees while we can. It is worth noting to get our jobs done and billed so we can get paid, it'll help in extra days paid. I'm not saying this is for everyone, I wish I could do more. It is very fluid and can change paths in hours. I have emailed my representatives about property tax relief. If the gov closes us, how can I afford to pay them? Additionally, it is important to keep calm, provide empathy, and carry on. We can control only two things, our effort and our attitude.
  • We are also in XXXX. Most of our clients are second homeowners so I don’t even meet them in most of the time. Our small crew of 2 full time employees will keep working as long as we can. I hope to ride this out. I do not have a plan in place except to try to keep the work coming in. We have squeaked by this winter so far. Honestly, I’m praying for wisdom, strength and continued faith. God has never let us down yet.

    May sound ridiculous to some but God is the ultimate owner of our business and life. XXXX and I have a deep faith and choose to run our business with God’s wisdom. (He usually covers our mistakes too)