Using a crane for a tree care job is an undeniably dangerous activity. Cranes can go hundreds of feet in the air and weigh several tons. If proper safety protocols are not followed, they pose a risk to both arborist workers and passing pedestrians. They can also be impacted by external factors like the weather. For some jobs, however, the use of a crane is essential.
In an earlier post, we examined the steps to take before deciding if a crane was right for the job, as well as the advanced knowledge that both the crane’s lift operator and the arborist being hoisted should have before starting a job. In this post, we focus on the ins and outs of actually removing a tree or a limb using a crane.
The Landing Zone
The landing zone is the space on the ground that a tree or tree limb falls to once it has been severed by the arborist. Estimating the size of the landing zone accurately and ensuring that it’s completely free of people and debris is essential for the safety of all.
To set up a secure landing zone, the crane operator and the workers down below should create a line of communication using radio or hand signals to ensure that they are on the same page about the scope and location of the landing zone. Once an area is designated, workers on the ground should set up barriers to keep people out of the way. Once barriers are in place, no one, including the tree care workers, should walk into the area under any circumstances.
Setting a Choker and Sling
The choker is the piece that connects the tree to the crane and controls the fall of the removed tree or limb. There are many different ways to set a choker and ensure that proper techniques are used. Every worker involved should be on the same page on what choker is being set.
To secure a choker, the arborist must ascend to the site of the cut, either using a safe tree climbing technique or through another method. The arborist will look to ensure that the tree is structurally sound enough to be worked on safely. Also, check that the location of the choker will allow for the load to twist during the removal. Once the choker is put into place, a final test should be done to make sure that it will not move from bark slippage. If the arborist is not confident that they can assess these factors, tree removal should not take place.
Some methods to set and secure a choker may increase safety if used in an appropriate situation. For example, using a multi-leg sling in coordination with a choker, if possible, will help to secure the load at multiple points, and give the crane a little more control. If removing a tree’s limb, the arborists can also try their best to place the choker near the branch’s union to the tree, as this is a naturally secure spot.
Cutting the Tree
Once a choker and/or slings are set in place, secured and checked for safety, it’s time to cut the section of the tree that’s being removed.
Constant communication is key for the cut, as it is perhaps the most dangerous step of the process. The arborists should use their radio to let the operator know that they are beginning to cut the load. The cut should be slow and controlled so that the arborists can continually monitor the situation.
As the arborist cuts the load, the crane’s operator must be alert throughout the entire process. It is their responsibility to make sure that the load does not swing near the arborist or above any workers or pedestrians.
Even if every crane safety protocol is followed, tree limb removal with a crane can still be dangerous work. Freak accidents do happen. However, by following the proper protocol you and your team can significantly cut down on the risk of injury to you, your workers and any passing pedestrians.