Spring training for your tree care crew - Vermeer Tree Views - Vermeer Tree Views
Spring training for your tree care crew

Spring training for your tree care crew

Now that your machinery is lubed and raring to go, let’s turn our attention to the guys who make it happen. The following article was authored and contributed by ArborMaster Training, Inc., as part two of our spring training series. Ken Palmer, president and co-owner of ArborMaster, has over 35 years of experience in tree care safety education. His company works to provide in-house, customized training programs and open-enrollment courses for tree care professionals.


Ken Palmer, President, ArborMaster® Training, Inc.

Tree climbing techniques

Technical (rope and harness) tree climbing is one of the most fundamental skills in tree care. There are two basic methods used in professional tree climbing: Moving Rope Systems (MRS) also known as Doubled Rope Technique (DdRT) and Stationary Rope Systems (SRS), commonly called Single Rope Technique (SRT).
In recent years SRT has become very popular in the tree care industry in part because it can be faster and easier on long ascents into a tree and because climbers actually move less rope as they climb. However, we’ve found that SRT can also have its limitations in some types of climbing and work positioning. DdRT and SRT each have their place in the tree care industry and add valuable techniques to the top climbers’ tool box. Whichever technique you choose, climbing safely requires an understanding of the basic methods as well as the details that help tree workers to climb safe!

When it comes to tree climbing, it’s natural for people to focus on the ‘wow’ factor and fun of it. We think this is largely due to the popularity of tree climbing competitions and videos on YouTube — but you don’t see a guy running a chain saw in most tree climbing competitions like you do on real jobsites. YouTube videos sometimes highlight bad behavior and poor work practices. Following best practices with both hand saws and chain saws are equally important to achieve safety, skill and productivity day after day.

In addition, according to the International Society of Arboriculture, “A qualified arborist shall visually inspect the tree, including the root collar, and the area immediately surrounding the tree for hazards before anyone climbs, otherwise enters, or performs any work on the tree.”

Aerial lift operation

While many trees are best cared for by way of climbing, there are times when utilizing an aerial lift provides better, safer access to the tree, like when working in proximity with power lines. Professional tree workers should have electrical hazard awareness training and always know and be sure to comply with your limit of approach distances! Aerial lift operators and crews must have the training, tools and knowledge to safely and efficiently work with a lift, and to deal with any emergency that might arise. The lift itself should always be set up in the safest and most efficient location for performing work on a given tree.

The keys to safe and productive aerial lift operation are training, situational awareness and communication. It can be challenging to communicate from the ground to a man in a bucket when the engine is running, especially when chain saws are being operated. We recommend using hand signals, whistles or radios which may help keep your team on the same wave length, however ‘drop zone’ protocols must be discussed, designated and followed at all times.

The American National Standard for Aboricultural Operations (ANSI) Z133-2012 – Safety Requirements for Arboricultural Operations were recently updated to include restrictions in clothing. The new requirement states: “Loose-fitting items that could create an entanglement hazard (e.g., clothing, jewelry), aerial lift or climbing equipment, improperly worn PPE or gauntlet-type gloves, shall not be worn while operating chippers.”

Equipment operation


Recent class photo from an ArborMaster Training course held at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

When it comes to equipment operation, we sometimes feel that there is not enough emphasis on the skilled craftsmanship of the trade and too much emphasis on getting the job done faster. For some owners, equipment operation is one of the last priorities, but it really needs to be a primary focus.

First, it’s very important to keep equipment jobsites a safe (and considerable) distance away from climbing jobsites. It might seem like a timesaver to keep equipment nearby, but best practices dictate that the two should not be intermixed. Second, be sure to train your crew on the proper operation of brush chippers, skid steers, grinders, stump cutters and other heavy machinery. For tips on proper operation of your equipment, consult your dealer or owner’s manual.

We cannot overstate how important it is to regularly review the basics of operating all equipment, particularly the tree care pro’s best friend—the professional chain saw. We hear about so many avoidable accidents within the industry involving the misuse of chain saws. So often, people assume if they can get the chain saw started they’re good to go. That’s where the danger begins. Guys end up cutting themselves, cutting their rope and falling from the tree, or incorrectly cutting a branch that hits them or falls on someone down below.

Some of the most common mistakes we see in our trainings are the way operators grip the forward handle of the chain saw without wrapping the thumb of the left hand. Your grip is significantly reduced without securely wrapping the thumb. Additionally, many people dangerously position themselves directly over the cutting system as they are cutting instead of positioning themselves much more safely to the left side of the saw — this provides a better line of sight.

It is easy to develop bad habits and not even know it. What feels natural may not be safer, easier or more efficient. Sometimes we must retrain in order to break bad habits and move to best practices!

Tree workers must be able to think on their feet in order to adapt safely and productively to the ever-changing environment they work in. Frequent job risk assessments (JRA) and good situational awareness is essential and should always be taught and encouraged.

 Keep training and learning

The bottom line — education and training never ends in the tree care industry, which is why we encourage business owners to continue providing learning opportunities to their crew throughout the year.

The owner or employer is ultimately responsible for providing the education and training their team needs to be safe, productive and successful. The employer has a vested interest in giving employees an opportunity to learn and develop new skills, because it leads to a safe and productive work environment. And what owner doesn’t want that?


For more information on training and classes, visit arbormaster.com. See You At The Top!®

 This blog post was contributed and authored by ArborMaster. © 2017 ArborMaster Training Inc. All Rights Reserved.

See You At The Top! ® is a registered trademark of ArborMaster.


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