Safety Tips and Best Practices

Jessica Cofer Blog

Working in the field of arboriculture, there’s a lot to remember when it comes to staying safe on the job. Depending on the work you’re doing, different techniques come into play to make sure your safety remains a priority.

We reached out to our NATS team members and asked them to share some of their tried and true safety tips and best practices. Read on – you may learn something new!

  • Always do a pre-work hazard inspection to identify hazards. A good way to approach it is the acronym H.O.P.E. — Hazards, Obstacles, Plan and Equipment. Identify those things in that order and you will be well on your way to starting the job safety and efficiently. ~ Tony Tresselt, Director of Instructors & Curriculum Development
  • We all love tree work because every day is different, am I right? On any given day, one could be faced with a brand new challenge.While cutting aloft, the safest practice is to attain the most comfortable, most stable position possible. This allows us greater control, and greater control keeps your head in the game and both hands on the saw.If your positioning passes “the whistle test,” it’s all good! The whistle test is this: at any time, if someone on the ground blew a whistle, could you let go of the tree or climbing system in order to free up both hands and still be safe? ~ Rebecca Seibel, Lead Instructor

  • While working aloft, the latest and greatest devices designed for fall protection PPE have learning curves. So, practice, train, and train others on proper use by following manufacturers’ specifications. In other words, get to know your PPE! ~Tyler Zuniga, Lead Instructor
  • Always work as if someone is watching you, meaning don’t take short cuts, follow best practices and standards all the time. It’s hard to break a habit, you have to be honest with yourself and practice when no one is watching. (Chain break and thumb wrapped while running a chainsaw). ~ Matt Carruthers, Lead Instructor
  • When climbing in a tree, body positioning is really important. Not only for personal comfort, but also in reducing fatigue and improving safety. I encourage people when climbing to obtain their aerial work zone, where they are going to make the cut, and then act out the cut with both hands, sort of like a tree worker’s version of shadow boxing! Usually if your position is not secure, or really uncomfortable or strenuous, then you will find out pretty quickly. You can always implement another work positioning strategy to become secure and make the cut safely and efficiently. ~ Dan Groves, Director of Site Safety
  • During tree removal operations, and especially on spar work, “climbers” are necessary. Climbers — also known as gaffs, hooks, or spikes — allow an arborist to get stable footing when performing rigging and cutting.A common problem is accidentally putting a spike right through the fall of your climbing line. Grrr. This tends to happen more on brand new lines, too.A good tip or trick is to use a carabiner placed strategically on your harness leg loop. To do that, take the fall of your line and simply redirect it through the binder off either leg. Voila! It’s just enough to lead it beyond the spike zone.
    ~ Rebecca Seibel, Lead Instructor

  • As the prevalence of batter chainsaws increases on our job sites, we need to be aware of some special consideration when cleaning and maintaining them. No competent arborist would ever consider sharpening or maintaining a saw while the motor was at idle! In the case of gas powered equipment, it is a bit of a no brainer. You can hear a gas powered motor at idle. However, this is not the case with battery powered saws. They can be switched on, the chain break can even be off, and they will make no noise!This can be a concern from a few angles. First, if the chain tension needs to be adjusted or the chain sharpened, it is not hard for the power switch to be unintentionally activated. Therefore, it is always a good idea to leave the chain break engaged whenever you are not cutting.


Better yet is to disable the battery completely. The easiest way to do this is to remove it from the saw completely. This will work 100 precent of the time, but can be a bit annoying for a quick chain check or clearing debris from side plate cover. It requires you to essentially make the saw two pieces as opposed to one. Many professional grade battery saws like the i540T from Husqvarna will have a detent that is designed to let the battery be disconnected from the terminals, but still stay connected to the saw body. This is the best of both worlds: the battery is not connected, so the engine is incapacitated, yet the battery is still in the saw.

Battery powered saws are rapidly improving and saws like this are better in many ways to their gas counterparts. However, like any new take on an old idea, learning to work safely and efficiently takes some new techniques.
~ Tony Tresselt, Director of Instructors & Curriculum Development

Whether working on the ground or at height, these safety tips and best practices will help ensure that you return home to your family and friends at the end of the day without an incident.

Do you have safety tips or best practices you’d like to share with your colleagues? Let us know and we may include them in the future!

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