Monthly Archives: March 2014

Tree Care Tips: Proper Mulching and Pruning

(Courtesy of US Department of Agriculture)

Proper mulching and pruning of trees are important to their health. The following information from the USDA Forest Service addresses these two issues.


Maintain a ring of mulch around the tree (the wider the better). Organic material like wood chips and leaves are best. Wood chips will take longer to break down and, therefore, will not require replacement as often.

TIP: Newspaper kills grass:
If there is grass in the area that needs to be mulched, put a 5-page layer of newspaper over the grass, and then add mulch on top (this will help keep the grass from growing up through the mulch). Mulch becomes soil. There should never be more than 4 inches of mulch over the roots. Too much mulch or soil can prevent oxygen from reaching the roots.



Support the branch with one hand while you make the cut to prevent the bark from ripping. If the branch is too large to support, use the three-step method (see details below). For the final cut, look for the branch bark ridge and trunk collar. Begin the cut just outside of the branch bark ridge, and angle down away from the trunk. Stay close to the trunk collar without cutting into it (see images below)

Protect Yourself: What you wear could save your life

Protect Yourself: What you Wear Could Save Your Life

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, should be part and parcel of every climber or branch manager’s daily outfit, so normal and natural that the respective tree crew member feels near naked without it. Sadly this is not always the case. Equally sad is the reflection in the tree care industry accidents, injuries and death statistics of this all-too-common lack of PPE.TSM hardhat

The ANSI Standards show the tree care industry and its members the required steps to take on the path to safety, much like leading that horse to water, but there are a lot of tree folks who aren’t drinking from the PPE fountain and quite often suffer the consequences. A company, crew or individual can be fined for not wearing the required PPE on a worksite, which is a pretty strong incentive to put the gear on. However, the primary reason for wearing PPE is to protect oneself, so that at the end of the day you go home with all the pieces and parts that were there at the start of the day.

Even the latest, greatest and most advanced PPE is not going to protect folks who make bad decisions, use poor judgment, or use generally insane work practices, but wearing the required PPE will lessen the odds of a serious injury in the event of the unexpected.

There’s a large amount of economical PPE available that could be considered hot or uncomfortable while still meeting the basic requirements. While this is better than no PPE at all, discriminating tree folk should be aware that just as the tree industry has grown and modernized, so has the PPE available, leaving crews with a number of options that are cooler, more comfortable, less foggy and more stylish. Regardless of whether the crews are rocking old-school or new PPE, the point is protection not just over the course of a workday, but over the course of a tree climber’s career.

Table 1 shows how easy the ANSI standard required PPE can be broken down: head, eye, leg/lower bodyand hearing/ear. Leg/lower body in the tree care industry is referring to chain saw chaps or pants, both of which have evolved enormously to provide users with more comfortable, better-vented options.

table 1

In general, clothing and footwear are not covered in a great deal of detail under ANSI, but understandably tree folk should be making choices that are suitable for a dirty, skin shredding and tripping hazard environment, not for threads that look good in the club. States, provinces and municipalities can choose to exceed these standards, so tree companies should also be familiar with their local regulations and requirements.


 Head, leg, ear, eye protection, even safety footwear, this saw operator has it going on in the PPE department.

Take care of them, they’ll take care of you

All PPE needs to be cleaned and cared for, otherwise it won’t perform as required. Daily inspection and maintenance should be a part of appropriate PPE use.

Helmets and/or hard hats need to be inspected regularly for cracks or breakdown of the plastic from sun exposure. An excellent way to quickly check the material integrity of a hard hat or helmet is to push the edges together, and then let it go. The helmet should quickly return to its original shape; if it lags a bit or stays bent inward, it’s time to get a new one. Any helmet or hard hat that takes an impact should be discarded. The suspension system inside, the heart of impact safety for a helmet, should not be altered and it should be inspected regularly. In addition, storing smokes, chew, beef jerky or other items between the impact-absorbing webbing of the hard hat/helmet and the shell is an excellent way to reduce the effectiveness of the helmet, so keep that stuff in the truck; you should probably quit anyway.

Keeping glasses or goggles in a soft container will prevent scratches and nicks that make them difficult to see out of, and you’ll always know where they are.

Any form of chain saw protective clothing should be washed periodically to remove oils, dirt and dust that can lessen the effectiveness of the chain saw-resistant fibers. Check the label for the correct laundry settings; drip or air drying is typically the best option.

Threads and dogs

As stated above, ANSI is not very specific on clothing and footwear for the tree care industry, but hopefully for most tree workers a certain amount of common sense prevails. The environment in which tree work takes place is often not that friendly to bare skin and ill-protected feet, with heavy, abrasive items often moving or rolling at high speeds, or needing to be picked up and moved around.

Boots intended for a worksite instead of line dancing are a good way to keep those “dogs” protected, and some form of hard toe caps can help stop injuries, while also allowing for excellent tire-kicking qualities.


A climber aloft with not only all the required PPE on, but also high-visibility outerwear. Photo by Michael Tain.

The type of clothing, or threads, that a crew wears can affect how they’re perceived by customers and the public, not to mention any passing law enforcement officials. Professional high-visibility shirts with company logos, even in a casual T-shirt style, will go a long way toward helping a crew of less-than-savory-appearing tree folk look more professional and less intimidating. In addition, the availability of breathable, high-tech fabric clothing designed for tree work movements have made the daily pile of sweaty, putrid, cotton T-shirts and jeans with ripped crotches a pleasant, but unmourned, memory.

Melons and maples

While a ball cap with the bill appropriately shaped or unshaped, depending on preference, may be quite stylish and keep one looking good cutting wood, it won’t be very helpful when a maple hits the melon. Modern head protection is filled with options for tree care personnel, so each individual can find the option that is comfortable for their noggin and appropriate for their work. These options run the gamut from basic construction/forestry type hard hats up to mountaineering-style helmets with vents and integrated eye/ear protection.

Regardless of choice, you should make sure the hard hat/helmet meets the standards for tree work, and that it’s sufficient to protect you from an impact from above? The majority of helmets come with built-in chin strap systems, which can be helpful while in the tree or on the ground. Most hard hats have some sort of chin strap add-on available.

As mentioned in maintenance, the suspension system of both hard hats and helmets is what absorbs the impact, so cutting straps for comfort, or using it for storage, is going to reduce its effectiveness. Crews doing full-on line clearance work or working near electrical conductors will need hard hats/helmets that are Class E. Keep in mind that the vents meant to keep the melon cool in non-Class E hard hats are a path for the voltage.

The eyes have it

The national standard for eye protection required under ANSI is termed Z87.1. The glasses or goggles that meet the standard will usually have this number printed on them or on the box/instructions. Most modern safety glasses are impregnated with antifogging and anti-scratch surfaces, both important features when climbing on a hot, humid day. There are also a number of lens wipes and gels that can help keep the glasses functional. These products can be used periodically throughout the day to keep glasses functional and fog free.

Built-in mesh screens on hard hats or helmets are meant as face protection and don’t qualify under the standards as eye protection. Operators using these types of face screens must wear glasses or goggles beneath the screen. For those workers who cannot find an acceptable set of safety glasses because of prescription requirements or extreme sweating capabilities, some helmet/hard hat systems come with plastic shields that qualify as eye protection.

Britches and stitches

As can be seen in the PPE requirements table, the standards only require chaps or chain saw pants when operating a chain saw on the ground, though this can vary by state or province. However, personal experience has shown that wearing leg/lower body protection aloft is highly recommended as a form of “cheap” insurance. While professionally manufactured chaps certainly meet the requirements, tree workers will often find that pants or bib-style overalls are more comfortable, flexible, and user friendly in the tangled strap snagging environment that is most tree work sites.

I can’t hear you

While the standard requires hearing protection after noise reaches or exceeds an eight-hour average of 85 decibels, an easier way to protect the hearing is to put muffs on or plugs in whenever loud stuff (chain saws, chippers, grinders) is running. Many hard hat and helmet systems have muffs built into them for easy use, and there are a variety of plugs available with strings and attachment options. Users of plugs should keep in mind that regardless of type, they need maintenance and replacement, so keep them clean and functional so the ears will remain likewise.

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, use will not only help tree care crews be safer through the day, but also help lengthen their careers by preventing or minimizing injuries that might shorten it; and while a fine for violating the PPE requirements would certainly hurt, it is not nearly as painful as having to explain to someone’s loved ones why they are not coming home.

REMEMBER: Protect yourself: What you wear could save your life!

(*Article courtesy of Tree Services Magazine- Written by  Michael (House) Tain, a contract climber, splicer, educator and writer associated with North American Training Solutions/Arbor Canada Training and Education, currently located in Lancaster, Ky.)

TCIA Reports 2013 Tree Care Accidents

The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) reviewed 158 occupational tree care accidents reported by the media in 2013. Of these accidents, 79 were fatal. The average age of the deceased was 40.6, and the average age of the serious accident victim was 37.7.

These findings are very similar to the 2012 findings, where TCIA recorded 84 fatal accidents. However, the number of non-fatal accidents increased dramatically to 79 from the 44 reported during the 2012 calendar year.


Summary of Findings:
An analysis of the fatal accidents categories revealed the following insights:
• Of the 14 fatalities attributed to falls from trees:
• Six could be attributed to failure of the tree, or a major limb.
• Two were caused by climbing system failure.
• In one instance, the victim cut through his own climbing system. In a separate incident, the victim was tied to the limb that was cut.

Of the 12 fatalities attributed to electrocution:
• Three victims were electrocuted through conductive tools or equipment such as metal saws, gas-powered stick saws, metal ladders and un-insulated lifts.
• Five victims made direct contact with conductors.
• It could not be determined how five of the victims made contact.

There was insufficient detail in the accounts of the 12 struck-by-tree fatalities to allow any further analysis. Similarly, the 13 struck-by-tree-limb fatalities lacked enough detail for further analysis.

Of the nine fatalities attributed to falls-from-aerial-lifts:
•The victim was not secured in the bucket in six instances. In one of these six cases, the victim’s ejection from the bucket was caused by a cut tree limb striking the bucket.
•There were two cases in which the upper boom failed, apparently without any external “assistance,” sending the operator to the ground.
•There was one case in which a blow from a falling limb caused the boom to shear off.

Non-fatal accidents are not reported in the media with enough consistency and clarity to allow analysis.

These sobering numbers are a stark reminder of the dangers of tree care, and highlight the need for tree care companies, along with homeowners and the property managers who hire them to uphold the highest standards for worker safety.

“Unfortunately for the industry overall, serious accidents seem to be increasing,” said Peter Gerstenberger, Senior Advisor for Safety, Standards & Compliance for TCIA. “We need to transform the industry and create a safety culture that will keep all tree workers safe in an inherently hazardous occupation.”

(*TCIA compiled this data using Google alerts, OSHA investigations, and reports from colleagues in the industry. Most accounts of fatal tree care accidents identified the tree care company involved, which allowed TCIA to calculate the percentage of accidents that involved TCIA member companies. TCIA found that only 12.7% of the recorded accidents can be attributed to TCIA member companies. Non TCIA member companies are responsible for 72.2% of the recorded accidents. The remaining 15.2% accidents lack attribution due to insufficient data.)

*This article is reprinted courtesy of the Tree Care Industry Association. (TCIA)