Tree Service Safety

Top 10 Pieces of Advice for Tree Service Safety

There’s a reason safety is emphasized to such a great extent in the tree care industry. Whether on the ground or up in the air, arborists and tree care providers constantly deal with dangerous equipment, risky situations, and the hazards of the work environment. For that reason, following all guidelines and being prepared for an emergency is a priority every time a worker steps foot on a job site.

Proper training makes all the difference when it comes to preventing injuries on the job. Carried out well, it increases efficiency, safety and productivity. Proper training is more than just a five-minute demonstration of how to use a piece of equipment at a job site. Tree care companies have the options to receive training through formal schooling, professional organizations, retailers and manufacturers, training companies or through their own in-house training programs.

Teaching can take place in a field setting or in a classroom. The most important part is that you choose a program wisely.

S.P. McClenehan, a tree services company in California, conducts a full-day training program for employees each year, as well as regular two-or-three-day trainings on topics such a climbing efficiency. Having been in business for over a hundred years, this safety minded company makes it work.

A good resource to start with is the American National Standards Institute Z133, more commonly known as “the ANSI.” Developed by a grieving mother who lost her son in a tree care accident, it drafts a framework for general work operations and safety standards in the tree care industry. In 2013, the ANSI was updated with changes that affect the tasks of climbing, rigging and working from an aerial lift.  For instance, handsaw use is required when rigging and recommended at all other times aloft.

Create a culture of safety among your team. Altering an established business culture can be difficult if employees are set in their ways. It’s important to create a culture of safety from the start. If you’ve noticed safety deficiencies among you and your crew and are ready for a change, start with weekly safety discussions, tracking every incident and creating a monthly safety task force.

Business efficiency increases when safety does too.

It’s imperative to arrive at the worksite with the correct gear. Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is the first line of defense against workplace injuries and accidents. Helmets, hearing and eye protection are a must. Other lower body protection is also recommended when operating a saw on the ground, but really, it would be well-advised to wear it at all times, even when aloft.

Once you’re at the work site, understand the environment around you. Trees that have been damaged by storms are difficult and dangerous to cut. Unpredictable, there is tension and compression in atypical locations. Strong winds can leave trees hung up in another tree, partially uprooted, or severely uprooted and laying on the ground.

Know your knots! The three primary factors when choosing a knot, hitch, splice or stitch for use at the end of the rope are safety, security and efficiency. You couldn’t get up in the air without proper cordage, but you have to tie a knot the right way to ensure a safe trip up and down.

There’s nothing like a sharp chain saw! In fact, a dull or incorrectly sharpened chain saw requires more energy to operate, is harder on the operator’s muscles, and may be prone to kickbacks. A sharp chainsaw makes everything easier on the job.

And, in case things get out of hand, you can never be too prepared. Each work site should have a fully-stocked first aid kit on hand in case of injury. In addition to typical first aid items, a few items will make your kit even more complete. Blood stoppers or compression bandages are helpful when dealing with an injury bigger than what a Band-Aid can handle. A folding c-collar protects a victim’s spine even when injured aloft and trauma shears or scissors make it easier for rescuers to get to the injury or source of blood.

Audrey Hix — August 27, 2015
(Courtesy of Tree Services Magazine: