Safety in the care of trees
Advice on the safe use of mobile platforms in tree care
Aerial work platforms are one of the safest means of providing temporary access for work at height, provided that a risk assessment has been carried out prior to their use, the equipment is operated by qualified, trained and familiar personnel and regulations are complied with Health and Safety, including having an emergency plan. For the safe operation of a mobile platform, it is not enough just to know technically how to operate it.
To ensure safe operation and avoid accidents or damage to equipment, all operators (contracted or self-employed) must receive professional, formal and employer-recognised training consisting of both theory and practice and assessment by a qualified person. For more detailed information on the training, visit www.ipaf.org.
In the accident statistics, nearly one in five fatal accidents related to the use of mobile platforms involves tree care workers. The following are reports of fatal accidents:
During a routine tree pruning job commissioned by a resident, a 61-year-old operator fell from a mobile platform and died on the spot. While working at height between two trees, the basket he was in snagged on a branch and became jammed. A witness to the incident reported to police officers that at one point the branch snapped off causing the basket to swing sideways throwing the operator, who fell from a height of 13-15m.
Contact with branches must be avoided as this can cause the platform to catch and cause sudden uncontrolled movement and damage to the machine. The operator must always wear fall protection equipment.
The operator of a mobile platform was killed by electrocution when the device touched a 7,200 volt overhead cable. The owner of a tree-trimming company was manoeuvring a basket lift when it touched a high-voltage line.
Before work begins, a risk assessment should be carried out and care taken to implement control measures to avoid risks in the form of overhead power lines.
The owner of a company specialising in tree care died while working on a mobile platform. Witnesses say the victim was 18m above the ground when a branch fell onto the platform, causing the operator to be crushed and suffocated.
Care must be taken to ensure that workers and the platform are in the correct position to avoid being struck by falling objects.
IMPORTANT - In order to operate the equipment safely, all applicable guidelines presented in the health and safety training, best practices and manufacturer's recommendations must be followed.
REMEMBER - Before starting work, the trained operator must:
- Check that the device is not damaged, can be safely used and operates correctly
- Take care when moving to the work site - avoid sloping surfaces.
- Ensure that the surface is stable at all times
- Always use suitable plates to distribute the local pressure evenly under the boom
- Organise and manage drop zones at a safe distance from the mobile platform and its base
- Take the necessary precautions to protect the operator from the chainsaw
REMEMBER - during operation, the trained operator must:
- Carry out regular checks to ensure that the mobile platform is not sinking into the ground
- Always wear a suitable harness and ensure that the rope puller is tied to the intended attachment point inside the platform. Refer to the H1 IPAF technical guidance.
- Avoid contact with branches - use caution and observe your surroundings at all times when raising and lowering the basket.
- Identify potential hazards in the form of overhead power lines and take the necessary precautions to eliminate the risk of electrocution.
- Be alert at all times and operate the moving platform smoothly and carefully.
- Never use the mobile platform as a crane and secure the support cables at any part of the mobile platform.
- Never refuel on the platform - always refuel the chainsaw on the ground.
- Never exceed the permissible load capacity of the vehicle, the maximum number of persons or the wind speed.
REMEMBER - Once the work is completed, it is the responsibility of the trained operator to:
- Clearing the mobile platform of sawdust or other debris
- Inspection of the device for damage - immediate reporting of any damage
- Leaving the device in a safe place with the buttons off - and without the keys
- Report damage to the platform to the owner - the platform must not be allowed to be used again if it is damaged.
- Always use suitable plates that distribute the local pressure evenly under the boom.
Take precautions to protect the operator from the chainsaw - in some countries it is compulsory to use platforms where there are separate areas for the platform operator and the saw approved by the manufacturer.
- Cut trees in such a way that the branches fall away from the jack.
- Always ensure that the rope puller is tied to the intended attachment point inside the platform.
NOTE: Many IPAF members offer formal employer-recognised operator training, which results in the issuing of a PAL Card (Lift Equipment Licence) to certify that the holder has successfully completed the training. The PAL Card provides evidence of the holder's training in the safe operation of the listed category of mobile platforms. A list of IPAF accredited training centres can be found at www.Ipaf.org.
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