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Good practice for tree-climbing operations

Tree-climbing operations must only be performed by people with suitable training, experience and expertise, holding a Certificate of Competence relevant to the task they are performing. It is important to note that a Certificate of Competence is not a measure of experience. The inexperienced must be adequately supervised.

Planning and preparation:
Discuss and plan the job beforehand, prepare a risk assessment and emergency contingencies. Remember that the job is a team effort – ground staff should support and monitor the climber at all times. If observations are made that cause concern, notify the climber, using the agreed system of communication.

Pre-work checks:
Before starting the saw and removing any material, check that any components connected to the climber (climbing ropes, strops etc) are placed in a ‘safe position’ away from the risks of entanglement or damage. Check for correct positioning of any rigging or lowering systems that may be in use. Be vigilant throughout all aspects of the operation.

Anchor points:
When sectional felling (‘topping down’) stems a minimum of two attachment/anchor points should be used. The advice given in the current edition of A guide to good climbing practice (Arboricultural Association) illustrates this and gives useful advice (ref: page 35, section 7.5).

Climbing system and associated equipment:
There is a wide range of equipment available which can improve the efficiency of tree-climbing operations. However, if new components are added to a climbing system, the climber must be fully familiar with their correct use and application.

Aerial rescue provision:
There must be a second person available equipped, trained and capable of performing an aerial rescue in the event of an emergency.

General observations:
Remember that accidents do not only happen to the inexperienced – the time served professional is also vulnerable. Adherence to the key fundamentals learned in training (and highlighted in industry publications) will significantly reduce the risks of accidents.