What you need to know
Aerial tree work is a hazardous occupation resulting in many injuries each year. Work off the ground that involves lifting and lowering people or loads, including work-positioning techniques, will be subject to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
What you need to do
- Chainsaws should never be used off the ground unless the operator has been adequately trained in safe working techniques.
- A minimum of two people must be present during all aerial work. One of the ground team must be available, competent and equipped to do an aerial rescue without delay.
- All operators should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
For professional chainsaw operators working in forestry and arboriculture, AFAG recommends that the minimum level of adequacy of training for chainsaw operations – including aerial tree work, pruning and dismantling – be confirmed by an independent assessment, leading to a recognised certificate of competence in the relevant activities. This is also a common requirement in contracts of service.
Current relevant certificates of competence include:
- Climb trees and do aerial rescue (CS38)
- Use a chainsaw from a rope and harness (CS39)
- Sectional felling (CS41)
Responsibilities of ground staff during aerial tree work
- Plan the job with the climber before the work starts and be aware of the tasks involved. On busy sites consider dedicating a specific member of the ground staff to each climber.
- Maintain effective communication with climbers at all times.
- Maintain concentration and watch the climbers. Anticipate their needs, passing up tools and other equipment when required.
- Keep climbing and work ropes on the ground free of knots, kinks, tangles, branch wood and clear of machinery. Keep ropes in safe positions, e.g. away from obstructions, vehicles, equipment and the public.
- Ensure the precautions taken to exclude the public and traffic from the work area are maintained while work is in progress.
- Keep tools and equipment which are not in use away from the immediate work area.
- Control working ropes, but do not wrap a rope around any part of the body to gain extra grip or purchase.
- Continually assess the operation and modify the work plan and risk assessment if you need to. If you are unsure, stop the work and re-assess the operation.
- Where possible share the workload with the climber(s).