Simon Richmond, Senior Technical Officer
We are delighted to have launched four of the suite of five Technical Guides (TGs) which became available in December. The fifth guide, TG3: Rigging and Dismantling, will be published in the first half of 2021. You can now purchase the first four guides as a bundle or individually.
Much work has been going on in recent months to bring these long-awaited Technical Guides to publication. The second industry consultation on TG1: Tree Climbing and Aerial Rescue closed in August and the technical authors have worked through the many constructive and helpful suggestions put forward by industry contributors. A huge thank you to all who took the trouble to respond and for the level of detail offered. Of course, not every proposal has been incorporated into the final document, but it has changed considerably as a result and the process has improved the technical content, readability, imagery and flow. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also responded to the consultation draft and contributed useful suggestions.
What started 10 years ago as a major review of industry guidance, with the creation of a new Industry Code of Practice (ICoP) (first published in 2015) for managers responsible for planning and controlling tree work and five technical guides to reflect current technical good practice for arborists and their supervisors, has resulted in a significant shift for our sector’s standard ‘mode of operation’.
The decision of HSE to insist on the use of a backup in addition to the primary climbing system for all tree climbing operations has had a massive impact on our industry, and will continue to affect our operations in different ways as we adjust to the new interpretation of legal compliance. It will undoubtably cost our sector financially, in terms of increased equipment purchases, checks, inspection and examination, as well as the increased time taken to implement ‘dual line working’ in every operation. There will be training requirements and accompanying costs for employers and the self-employed.
One of the reasons for this insistence from HSE is fundamental: individual arborists do fall out of trees and when that happens, they suffer injury or even die. While the formal UK accident statistics do not provide enough detail on arborists’ accidents, we do know that the accident rate is too high. When an arborist falls from a tree, they and their families, friends, employers and work colleagues are deeply affected; where the fall results in life-changing injuries or fatality, the effects are devastating. We have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure that folk go to work and come home again, safe. Having two points of attachment is not going to stop all falls from height but if it prevents even one, then that is (at least) one person’s life saved from devastation.
The Association’s response to these changes in the interpretation of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, involving industry consultation, discussions and negotiations with the Regulator and with the wider work-at-height sector, has extended our scheduled timetable for delivery of the new guidance by two years. It has thrown the tree climbing arborists’ sector into a period of uncertainty and insecurity while waiting for the details of industry good practice to be redefined.
However, that period of waiting is now over, and we can now focus on realigning work practices to the new industry standards for tree climbing, as set out in the second edition of the ICoP (published in May 2020) and now TG1: Tree Climbing and Aerial Rescue.
As well as falls from height, life-changing injuries are also caused by falling objects, chainsaws and, to a lesser degree, handsaws, poor work positioning and poorly planned rigging, use of cranes, MEWPs or other equipment. TG2: Use of Tools in the Tree sets out the protocols for safe management and use of tools and equipment. TG4: Use of Mobile Cranes in Tree Work and TG5: Use of Mobile Elevating Platforms in Tree Work provide practical, useful guidance on the planning, management and carrying out of tasks using this equipment.
All the Technical Guides are designed to set out information in a clear and logical way. Roles and responsibilities, communication, correct set up, pre-work checks and safe operation are presented in an easy-to-read format with accompanying photos, diagrams and illustrations.
The technical sections in each guide start with a ‘checklist’ of the key safety points that must be considered for that part of the operation, and each of these points is posed as a question to help establish that work is meeting the recommended standards. All the checklists in each guide have been compiled into a separate, free-to-download Safety Guide, which is available from the Association’s website: www.trees.org.uk/safety-guides. Each Safety Guide provides a useful collation of all the key safety points from the Technical Guide and can be used to audit safe operations on a work site.
I would like to extend my personal thanks to the technical authors of these guides: Chris Cooper-Abbs, Matt Brooker, Paul Elcoat, Dave Robinson and Paul Hanson. They have all put in a huge amount of time and effort to ensure the guides are accurate, comprehensive and technically relevant.
And thanks to you, the end-users, for your patience! – I really hope you find the guides help to clarify and explain the relevant good practice as they become our go-to reference for practical and authoritative guidance.