Lifting equipment in arboriculture


The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (often abbreviated to LOLER) place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. These pages explain how they apply to arboriculture.

Lifting operations should be properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner. For further information on planning lifting operation.

What is lifting equipment in arboriculture?

It is any equipment that lifts or lowers loads, including any attachments used for anchoring, fixing or supporting it. For example:

  • rope access and work positioning systems including anchor points,
  • ropes,
  • karabiners,
  • harnesses and strops;
  • rigging systems for lowering branches;
  • mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs);
  • cranes;
  • tree spades.

Remember the term 'load' includes a person.

What is not lifting equipment in arboriculture?

Equipment that does not lift or lower loads, for example, winching equipment used at ground level where the load does not leave the ground, such as skidding operations.

Marking of lifting equipment

All lifting equipment, including accessories, must be clearly marked to indicate their 'safe working loads' (SWL) - the maximum load the equipment can safely lift. Examples requiring this in arboriculture include:

ropes, slings, karabiners, strops, and harnesses for rope access; rigging system equipment, particularly to show it is not designed to carry people.

For further advice on marking equipment is available.

Suitability of lifting equipment

Strength of lifting equipment

Arboricultural activities requiring careful consideration for strength include:

  • rigging operations;
  • work in diseased or decayed trees.

Remember that anchor points in trees for:

  • rope access;
  • work positioning and
  • rigging systems

form part of the lifting equipment.

Arborists using rope access or work positioning should be trained to:

  • select suitable anchor points; 
  • recognise the differences between tree species; and
  • understand the effect of:
    • age;
    • condition of the tree; and
    • disease.

Stability of lifting equipment

LOLER requires you to ensure your lifting equipment will not collapse or overturn when working. Further information is available:

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) in Tree work

Lifting equipment for lifting people

As a general principle, you should eliminate the risk of a person falling or, if this isn't possible, reduce it, for example:

  • to eliminate work at height, arborists should consider pruning low-level branches from the ground with long-handled hand saws or pole pruners, taking into account the hazards of over-reaching and working below the branches to be cut;
  • choose access techniques which reduce the risk of falling. Use MEWPs in preference to rope access techniques where ground conditions allow and where reasonably practicable.

Where rope access and work positioning systems are necessary, refer to Schedule 5 of the Work At Height Regulations 2005.

Ensure that the main climbing rope and associated equipment are inspected every day by a competent person.

In the event of an emergency a reliable means of rescue must be available and people trained in tree rescue should be available at each work site.

Positioning and installation of lifting equipment

Position and install lifting equipment to reduce, to as low as reasonably practicable:

  • the risk of the equipment or the load, for example, the log being lowered, striking people: or
  •  the risk of cut timber:
    • drifting;
    • falling freely; or
    • being released unintentionally.

Position lifting equipment to minimise the need to lift loads over people. Check that:

  • unauthorised access to the work area is prevented where timber is being handled by lifting equipment on or near public rights of way;
  • MEWPs and cranes used for treework are set up so the counterweight does not swing out into the way of pedestrians or road traffic;
  • arborists in the same tree are not endangered either by working too close together or by lowered timber.

Ensure loads are not allowed to drift, for example:

  • arborists need to use supplementary anchors, where practicable, to reduce the risk of a pendulum swing within the tree;
  • attach control lines to cut timber, where necessary, to stop contact with people or objects.

Ensure lifting equipment is fitted with suitable devices to minimise the risk of the load (including people) falling freely. Make sure:

  • arborists do not climb above anchor points when using work positioning techniques;
  • roping down of branches is controlled by using a friction device or other suitable system;
  • arborists descend ropes in a controlled manner using either a friction knot (ie a prussic) or mechanical descender device.

Prevent loads from being released unintentionally by:

  • adequately training people involved in slinging loads;
  • in rope access and work positioning, using a karabiner with a 3-way action gate at the main attachment point between the rope and the harness.

Thorough examinations and inspections

Thorough examination of lifting equipment is to protect both operators and people in the vicinity of lifting operations who may be at risk if the equipment suddenly failed.

Lifting equipment used to lift loads will require a thorough examination by a competent person. This includes but is not limited to rigging and climbing equipment and machinery such as telehandlers and MEWPs.

Further advice on thorough examinations is available.

Arborists should be trained to carry out a daily pre-use check of their lifting equipment and, in the case of items subject to high levels of wear and tear (ie ropes), a written weekly record of inspection should be kept.

Reports and defects

A person making a thorough examination for an employer should notify defects and make a report of the examination.

For further information on reporting defects is available.


For further information on record keeping is available.

Other legal requirements

LOLER has links with other health and safety legislation which you need to consider when applying the Regulations.


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