Jose Mercado of Azusa began his long career in the arborist service industry by working alongside his father as a teenager during his summer school breaks. He would often translate safety messages for his co-workers who spoke only Spanish or understood very little English.
Today, with 40 years of experience, Mercado is an independent safety consultant for several businesses in the tree care industry, helping to train Spanish-speaking workers. But it was two years ago that he decided to put his experience to greater use to help found the Hispanic Arborist Association. The nonprofit helps provide training, education and advancement for tree service workers who may be overlooked due to English-language barriers.
With 150 members representing tree service and landscape companies in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, the association offers certification classes in Spanish that teach new and advanced climbing techniques, the safe use of special equipment and personal safety, including first aid and aerial rescue.
Southern California Edison (SCE) recently partnered with the Hispanic Arborist Association to help increase awareness about electrical safety among tree and landscape service workers who often work around power lines while pruning trees and palms.
“The Spanish-language materials that Southern California Edison provides the association are a great help in our safety training,” said Mercado. “And now we even have a video on electrical safety in Spanish we can use.”
Through October, SCE is hosting a “safety moment” during the arborist association’s safety training classes. In addition to a safety around electricity video, the utility is providing electrical safety kits in Spanish as well as information on emergency preparedness and electrical safety at home to share with friends and family.
Participants in the classes appreciate the Spanish-language tips on staying safe.
“When the classes are in English, you can miss important things because you don’t understand,” said Miguel Angel Román, who has been a tree trimmer for four years. “For me, it’s better to learn in Spanish.”
Evencio Molina has been a tree trimmer for eight years. He knew about the rule to keep equipment, tools and vehicles at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines, but learned new information about underground power lines shown in the safety video.
“That was very helpful information because when you work with trees, there are times you may have to dig, and I didn’t know there can be electric cables in the ground,” he said.
SCE also participated in the arborist association’s second annual Tree Climbers Jamboree recently at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. The event tested safety knowledge, climbing techniques and the proper use of special equipment. SCE provided electrical safety kits to the competitors and their families.
“Safety awareness is paramount at Southern California Edison, for our employees, contractors and the public,” said Don Neal, SCE director of Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety. “Working with organizations like the Hispanic Arborist Association, whose members may work near power lines, helps us spread our safety message far and wide throughout our service territory.