Tree-care is a results-oriented business. Sure, you need to have some good business instincts and customer-service skills (to say nothing of a good sales pitch), but success largely boils down to getting the job done correctly, with finesse, and – perhaps most importantly – in a timely manner. And this rush to get one job off the books and start on the next occasionally leads tree-care professionals to make safety-related missteps – particularly in the realm of fall protection. Below, we’ll discuss three common, but potentially catastrophic, fall protection oversights tree-care professionals often make.
Using Equipment Without Inspecting It
Even the highest-quality climbing and tree-removal equipment will eventually fail – it’s simply a matter of time. So, it is vital that you or a trusted member of your crew perform a thorough inspection of all fall prevention equipment, rigging, safety equipment and tools before starting the job.
You needn’t necessarily consider every ding or flaw cause for replacement – equipment is designed to withstand a bit of wear-and-tear during its useful life. But you don’t want to leave anything to chance if you note potentially serious damage to any of your equipment – particularly those things that help keep you and your crew safe.
You probably don’t need to replace a chainsaw because the housing has become slightly dented, but you shouldn’t even consider allowing a climber to use a rope that showing signs of fraying. There’s obviously no need to replace an orange safety cone because it has developed a tear, but you’ll certainly want to replace your ground man’s hard hat if it shows damage.
These types of inspections – and the occasionally necessary replacement of damaged safety gear or tools – do take time, but that’s just part of the gig. You have to keep your crew safe. But one way you can help avoid losing an entire morning is by keeping an extra set (or two) of all safety gear, climbing ropes, and other equipment on hand at all times. You’ll have to invest a little money to do so, but it’ll help you avoid losing time if you even discover that gear needs to be replaced.
Having a “Qualified Arborist” Inspect the Site
Many tree-care service owners are clearly qualified arborists, so this is often simply a matter of taking a few minutes to carefully inspect the tree and the site. Don’t just green light your crew and wait for the sound of roaring chainsaws; take the time to inspect the site deliberately to avoid preventable accidents and injuries.
However, if you do not feel that you can justifiably claim to be a qualified arborist, you’ll want to solicit the help of a professional who can satisfy this criterion. This is especially important for businesses who offer tree-care adjacent services (such as landscaping) yet are seeking to expand into tree removal.
Operators inclined to expand in this way are wise to proceed very carefully, and only after contacting their insurance provider and a “qualified arborist” first. This is not only an OSHA requirement, but it also makes good sense. Only a knowledgeable arborist can identify the tree properly and ascertain any potential dangers involved in its removal.
Failing to Inspect the Area for Fall Hazards
Fall protection doesn’t only refer to workers falling from high places, it also refers to objects falling on people from above. Of course, tree-removal inherently involves something falling from the sky, but this is (hopefully) accomplished in a safe manner. However, many tree-care professionals fail to consider things that they don’t intend to send plummeting to the ground.
This includes a diverse array of things, but a few include:
- Nearby Trees – In the absence of a thorough pre-removal inspection of the area, you may miss nearby trees or branches that will be sent flying by the tree you’re dropping. Don’t forget to check for thick vine growth, either; trees interwoven by vines may fall like dominoes.
- Portions of Homes or Buildings — This includes everything from gutters to light fixtures to signage.
- Natural Hazards — We’d say a hornet’s nest clearly qualifies as something you want to anticipate falling from the sky.
- Tools — Half the things your climber is carrying are heavy enough to cause serious injury to anyone unfortunate enough to be walking below.
The last good example it’s important to point out is, ironically, fall protection equipment. Even something as simple as a rope could cause injury to your crew or bystanders if it whips out of a tree quickly.
Obviously, these aren’t the only important fall protection steps you’ll need to take, so be sure to review all pertinent safety guidelines if you aren’t already clear. This not only includes all relevant OSHA requirements, but those imposed by state, city or local authorities too. By doing so, you’ll keep your crew safer and avoid costly fines or work stoppages.