Working and tree climbing without any emergency procedures to carry out an aerial rescue


A self-employed arborist was found unconscious, suspended 5 metres from the ground. He had fallen whilst in an ash tree and banged his head and body against the tree trunk. Prior to the fall he was carrying out pollarding work with a chainsaw. The emergency services were called to cut the arborist free, and he was taken to hospital unconscious. He sustained serious head injuries and fractured his lower leg, spine and ribs. The HSE Investigation revealed there was no emergency procedures to carry out an aerial rescue and there had been no regular inspection of climbing equipment, including rope and harness.


The proprietor of the arboriculture company was prosecuted under:

  1. Regulation 8 of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992 for failing to have appropriate emergency rescue arrangements and
  2. Regulation 9 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations1998 for failing to ensure lifting equipment used for lifting persons was thoroughly examined by a competent person.

The proprietor pleaded guilty and was fined £5,000 plus prosecution costs of £2,495.


This case highlights the importance of having a minimum of two people present during all tree-climbing operations. One of the ground team must be available, competent and equipped to perform an aerial rescue without delay. It is recommended that climbing teams regularly practice rescue techniques and a first-aid kit is available. Further guidance can be found in the Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group leaflet AFAG 402.

All climbing equipment should be thoroughly examined by a competent person at regular intervals. If the equipment is used for people then this examination should be every 6 months. All other climbing and rigging equipment should be examined every 12 months.

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