Access equipment for tree work

This winter the UK has been battered by storms and high winds and one of the many consequences of this is fallen trees and hanging branches. Access equipment for tree work provides a safe and stable working platform, it can be moved quickly between trees and locations and eliminates the need for exhausting climbing or carrying of tools.

Whether you are landscaping, planting or pruning, here are the main things you need to know when working with access equipment for tree work.

Risk assess the job
Before the start of any job involving access equipment, a detailed risk assessment should be carried out. This is essential to identify the following points:
– Selecting the right make and model of access equipment for the job
– The ground conditions, height and outreach
– The need for personal fall protection
– Obstacles and hazards at height and ground level
– Emergency procedures and rescue plans

A stable platform
Ground surface conditions are an important consideration as the platform must be set up on a strong and stable base to prevent overtipping.  Most types of access platforms can operate on sloping ground and some machines have auto levelling technology to assist this. When using boom type access platforms, spreader plates will be required under the outrigger legs to ease surface pressure.

Personal fall protection (PFP)
Often, working at height on trees involves the use of a chainsaw and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends the following PFP to reduce the risk of cuts:
■ A safety helmet
■ Eye protection
■ Hearing protection
■ Suitable gloves appropriate to the task
■ Leg and groin protection
■ Protective boots with good grip and protective guarding at front vamp and instep
■ Non-snag outer clothing.

The operator should be secured on the work platform by an anchored lanyard or harness and nobody should stay at height while the vehicle is moving unless the machine is designed to be driven from the platform.

Working from the platform
The HSE also recommends the following safety tips when working with trees:
– Keep the platform floor free of debris and never use it to lower timber
– Position the platform at or above the level of the cut and never under the branch to be pruned or removed
– Do not attach ropes between the platform and any part of the tree
– Use an independent rope to lower offcuts

If climbing from the platform into a tree is required, the climber should wear a harness suitable for tree climbing and be attached to the tree, on a tested anchor point, before releasing the anchorage on the platform. Take care to avoid contact with any trees when lowering the platform and stow and lock the lower boom fully in the travel position

Access Equipment for tree work can be flexible, mobile and able to travel and operate in hard to reach places including remote woods and parkland. Take time to stabilise the machine and ensure operatives are adequately protected as this will lower the risk of accidents or injury.