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Closeup of the center and partial petals of a deep yellow sunflower.
The Chippers staff in front of the Enfield location.

A Meaningful Safety Mantra Created by and for Chippers

What happens when a dedicated team of passionate green care industry professionals (arborists, horticulturalists and turf specialists) collaborates to create a meaningful safety mantra for our company? The acronym I WILL was born: I Will Work Safely; Invest in Others; Learn from Mistakes; and Lead by Example.

The idea for developing a safety mantra at Chippers came from a presentation at our annual Tree Care Industry Association Winter Management Conference, where speaker David Horsager enumerated examples by which an acronym mantra can better communicate an intended message in a memorable and succinct way. KISS, “Keep it simple, stupid”, is a great example. It’s memorable all on its own and represents the idea in a positive way.  The acronym SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) is another, describing both the useful specifics and invoking the positive nature of the main idea. In the recovery field, HALT represents some of the everyday risks to relapse (being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired) and affirms the importance of avoiding trouble when those conditions are present.

After returning from the conference, Chippers’ VP of Operations John Keefe championed the idea during his safety presentation at our annual company training day(s). His presentation explained why a safety mantra is important and how to develop an effective slogan and acronym. Next, we broke into seven groups of 7-8 Chippers employees who brainstormed to develop an acronym that would represent the key ideas of our safety culture in a memorable format. There were several good versions presented, but the resulting I WILL was the easy favorite with almost unanimous support. We’ve also received enthusiastic reviews from several of our external stakeholders, who especially liked the team-orientation reflected in the phrase “Invest in Others”.

This new safety mantra has an important additional feature:  it honors the memory of Chippers’ founder, Will Russell, who died in 2010. Will lived both professionally and personally by the words and meaning reflected in our new safety mantra.  It was unveiled company-wide in its final form this past week.

When Chippers team members throughout the company were asked what they like about our new safety mantra, these are some of their responses:

‘I like it because it’s short and memorable.’
‘It’s easy to relay to new folks what our safety culture truly is.’
‘I like that it points back to Will. And that’s it’s not uncomfortable to say.’
‘Most fantastic thing to take the time to be safe.’
‘Love it. It’s more than a safety mantra. It’s about life.’
‘It reminds me of my personal responsibility to staying safe.’
‘If you think this is corny I want you to change your tune. This is who we are.’
‘I like the invest in others part, it isn’t just about me.’
‘Gives me goose bumps, couldn’t be better.’
‘It’s memorable, motivating, impactful and emotional: we covered it all, nothing is missing.’
‘I can remember it, it’s totally to the point, and it’s about Will.’
‘Love it. And it’s more than a safety mantra – lots of good stuff in there. And it’s uniquely intertwined with Chippers.’
‘It’s close to home with what we’re all about here. At recent CTSP training it was reinforced what a great company we really are.’
‘It’s a great addition to our safety meetings, getting safety into people’s heads first thing each morning.’
‘’Others’ is also about our communities, for which I am proud we do a lot. It’s one of the best things about working here.’
‘I like that it’s about Will, and he lived by the values.’
‘It has personal significance for me, but if you live by those four things, you’re going to have a good day.’

Our Safety Trainer Bill Murphy suggested we start a call and response routine, where someone ends the daily safety meeting with ‘Be Safe’ or ‘Have a Great Day’ or ‘Let’s Go Make Some Hay’ and the rest of the group calls out ‘I Will.’ The specific implementation will vary by office and by day, but the message of personal accountability for safety remains constant.

Simple, memorable, meaningful, effective: we now have the best possible safety mantra for Chippers in I WILL.
It’s a promise we intend to keep.

By Mundy Wilson Piper