Rather than hats, Tyler Zuniga wears many (PPE) vests in his roles with NATS as a Lead Safety Professional and Lead Instructor. That wearing of different vests is a part of his job with NATS that he really enjoys.
“Today I could be watching people climb; tomorrow I may be overseeing someone operating a bucket truck with insulated tools,” Tyler explains. “The following day I may oversee a crew felling trees. Each of these jobs ties into governing bodies: OSHA and ANZI 133.”
Tyler joined NATS in 2015 and has 20 years of experience in the field; he earned his degree in Agro-Forestry Engineering from Central Agronómico Tropical de Investigacion y Enseñanza (CATIE) University in Costa Rica. In addition to his role with NATS, Tyler is a college instructor in Oregon.
“Every time I go out in the field to share my knowledge and educate others, I learn something different in regards to how to do our work,” he says.
He adds that he endeavors to teach and empower crews with the knowledge to separate policies and procedures in regards to OSHA and safe work practices.
“There’s always a policy and procedure to lead the work process,” Tyler says.
Before arriving at a new job site, he says that it is very important to understand the project and the goal behind it, including the various procedures and policies that may be in place.
“It’s a constant moving target; it’s never the same,” explains Tyler. “The policies and procedures shift, depending on where you’re working and the company’s or client’s own internal procedures.”
When he does arrive at a job site, Tyler brings with him that knowledge that he has developed about the task at hand, as well as his extensive knowledge of federal and regional mandates.
“We [NATS] spend time educating folks about policies and procedures, but our strong suit is in the training,” he says. “We approach a crew or a company and introduce ourselves, who we are, and who we are working for.”
Tyler’s deployments with NATS are two weeks on average, and he works with crews of about 200 to 300 people, broken down into smaller groups of three or five. When he is deployed, Tyler says his main focus is the well-being of everyone performing the work.
“When I approach a team or a job site, I’m looking at their state of mind. How are they feeling… good? tired? are they communicating with each other?,” he says. “Beyond that, I’m looking at levels of experience, and if crews are qualified to do what they’re doing.”
After introductions are made, Tyler gets involved with the crews to share knowledge and safety practices in a comfortable way.
“I try to visit with all of them, and connect with them to see how safely they are performing the work,” he explains. “I share the perspective that safety on the job isn’t necessarily how to run a chainsaw, or how to climb a tree. It’s the about the whole aspect of protecting the crews, the infrastructure and the project.
“If there’s an opportunity to educate, I’ll step in and share the reason why something is done a particular way,” he continues. “In addition to efficiency, we talk about ergonomics and how to conserve (physical) energy. It’s a very labor intensive job, what we do.”
Tyler adds that as a team, NATS safety professionals and instructors work to empower crews with the education to conserve energy and, ultimately at the end of the day, “they can go home to their families or back to the hotel to hang out with friends, and they’ll have some energy left.”
Safety on the job doesn’t always mean when crews are working, says Tyler.
“Safety comes in so many different ways. Last year, I spent a lot of time sharing about COVID-19: how can we protect ourselves while we are driving together in the same vehicle? What kind of precautions should we take?,” he explains. Tyler says that OSHA recognized COVID-19 early on and, along with recommendations from the CDC, guidelines were created to share at job sites.
“We’re continuously educating ourselves,” says Tyler. “The whole idea is to be progressive.”
To learn more about Tyler, check out his bio.
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