A tree surgeon was employed by a householder to top and trim a garden tree. He climbed the tree to carry out the work, using a top handled chainsaw. Whilst removing branches he seriously cut his left arm and face with the chainsaw. The emergency services were called out to rescue him from the tree but he later died in hospital as a result of severe blood loss.
The investigation revealed that he was climbing the tree without using a rope and he had inadequate protective clothing. It is highly likely that he had been holding the chainsaw one-handed. There was no first aid equipment on site and no emergency procedures existed. The other workers on site did not have the necessary skills to climb the tree and carry out an aerial rescue.
As the tree surgeon was self-employed, no prosecution could be brought. At the inquest the Coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death, but said that if an employee had died rather than the tree surgeon, he would have recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, because of the lack of safe working practices.
Tree work needs to be carried out by competent people who have received adequate training. A specialist contractor should carry out any work that involves tree climbing or work at height.
This case highlights the high risks associated with poor arboricultural working
practices. It is essential that all of those involved have been properly trained and where necessary hold the relevant chainsaw certificates of competence.
There must be somebody on the ground capable of carrying out an aerial rescue if something goes wrong.
All climbers should carry a large wound dressing in case of injury.
Except in special circumstances, chainsaws should be operated with two hands on the machine.
All arborists should use work-positioning techniques with ropes and a harness. It is never acceptable to climb the tree without being attached to at least one load-bearing branch.