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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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Second fatality in 12 months – this has to stop

Last Updated:  22/02/2017
We were shocked and saddened this week to hear of the tragic death of another young, fit and competent arborist, who died from chainsaw injuries while working in the tree.

At this stage we do not know the details of how Greg Bulbec died, on 15 February 2017, while working in Bermondsey, South London. He leaves a partner one-year-old child. A colleague has written a letter about Greg in our upcoming ARB Magazine.

Alexander Kirkley died from chainsaw kickback injuries to the neck in February 2016. The Coroner investigating this accident issued a ‘Report to prevent future deaths’, under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and Regulation 28 of Coroners (investigations) Regulations 2013, in December 2016. This is an unusual occurrence and ‘prevention of future deaths’ reports are normally only issued where it is felt that:

a) further deaths are possible or even likely and
b) the coroner believes that action can be taken to prevent further deaths

The Association is in correspondence with a number of others, including the Health and Safety Executive ‘AFAG’ group, to examine the current legislation, training and good practice guidance, the design and functionality of chainsaws – in particular top handled saws, and availability and use of PPE, in order to fully explore what more could be done to ensure the safety of climbing arborists. We are also meeting with Mr Kirkley’s father as part of this process.

It is too early to announce any conclusions to these issues – of course they have been examined extensively over many years – but, like any operator of potentially lethal machinery (a car driver, for example), we must remain vigilant and attentive.

•    Think ahead – risk assess and plan

•    Follow the guidance – top-handled saws are not ‘one-handed saws’

•    Ensure contingency measures are in place – first aid, emergency and rescue plans.

A number of health and safety resources for arborists can be found here

Our thoughts and condolences go to the families and friends of both young men who have been lost to us while doing the job they loved. Let us try to ensure there are no more.