IN this series of articles, I am working through the requirements of the Arboricultural Association’s Approved Contractor Scheme, or ArbAC as it is now commonly known, the idea being that if you work on the bite sized chunks month on month, by the end of the series of articles, you should be in a position to go for the assessment.


• Part 1 – Introduction to the Arb Approved Contractor Scheme.
• Part 2 – The Worksite Safety Inspection.
• Part 3 – Completed Work and the Named Manager Knowledge Requirement.
• Part 4 – Module 3 – Customer Care and Office Procedures
• Part 5 – Insurances, Licences and Policies
• Part 6 – Health and Safety Management and Workplace Inspection
• Part 7 – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
• Part 8 – Environmental Matters
• Part 9 – Fire Safety Arrangements
• Part 10 – Incident management
• Part 11 – LOLER and PUWER
• Part 12 – Personnel and Training
• Part 13 – Risk Assessments and Method Statements
• Part 14 – Office, Workshop and Yard

In this edition I am going to discuss the expectations in respect of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Personal protective equipment or PPE is the last line of defence in the event of everything else failing. In the case of the use of a chainsaw, there are three lines of defence from injury:

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1. The way we hold the saw so that in the event of a kickback or overcut, the guide bar will move into an area away from the operator.
2. The safety features that have been built into the saw such as the inertia chain brake and the dead man’s handle.
3. Personal protective equipment.

PPE also includes the equipment that makes up personal fall protection systems such as ropes, harness and karabiners.

We are really lucky in this industry because PPE requirements are a generally accepted standard. I work in some industries where companies have to do their own research to decide what is required.

READ MORE: Arboricultural business: Gearing up for inspection

The first places to look for PPE requirements are the Arboricultural Association's technical guides published in December 2020, which are currently only available as hard copy books on the association's website, and the FISA guides which can be accessed for free on the HSE and the FISA websites. There are also still a couple of AFAG guides that have not yet been replaced by more up-to-date guidance.

For Arb Association technical guides see:

For current FISA (chainsaw and forestry) guides see: 

For current AFAG (‘arb’) guides see:

These guides tell you exactly what should be issued to operators and how it should be used. The expectations of the Approved Contractor Scheme are as per the requirements of the relevant guides. There are a few points of administration to note:


• If industry guidance or your risk assessment highlights the requirement for an item of PPE, it must be issued to employees free of charge.
• It should also be replaced free of charge. Seemingly unreasonable wear and tear or deliberate damage to PPE should be dealt with under your disciplinary or capability procedures.
• The PPE issued must be the right item for the job. Watch out for ear defenders here as you might find the ones on forestry helmets are not adequate for the noise levels of your chipper. Many companies issue chipper-rated ear defenders as standard nowadays. Chainsaw ear defenders are typically around 24 SNR, whereas chipper ear defenders are around 34 SNR. Don’t get baffled by SNR ratings as it is actually very simple. We need to get the noise in the operator’s ear to below 85 decibels and ideally below 80 decibels. If the chipper runs at 110 decibels, we simply subtract the SNR rating of the ear defenders from that to achieve a safe noise exposure level. 110 – 34 = 76.
• Issue events should be recorded so that you can demonstrate that the item was issued to the operator. I have a form for this if you would find it useful. Just drop me an email.
• PPE should be inspected regularly by the operator and by the employer to make sure that it is still in good condition.
• Managers must inspect the PPE of self-employed part-time operators to make sure it is up to the standard required by the company. Operators trying to save a bit of money may arrive with chainsaw rated ear defenders, the incorrect rating for chainsaw trousers (type A rather than type C for climbers) and karabiners purchased from popular online outlets for dodgy goods.

We have seen an increase in the level of the records for PPE and equipment issue by the clients of our clients recently. Simply recording the issue of PPE is quickly becoming insufficient as the large infrastructure maintenance companies are now requiring contractors to prove that the operator has received instruction in the handling, use, maintenance and storage of the PPE.

We are issuing an updated record form to our clients and I have included it below so that you can use a similar format in your organisation. Records like this are worth their weight in gold in the aftermath of an accident or during a client audit.

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On the reverse of the issue record, we have included what we mean by handling, use, maintenance, and storage of the item so that the operator receiving the item can simply read from the reverse before signing for the item.

If you would like a copy of the original form, drop me an email and I will send you one in MS Word format so that you can amend it to your own needs.

Several of our clients have a standard issue brand and model for each PPE requirement but give the option for operators to upgrade to the designer model with the cost difference being at their own expense.

In the above system, though, the standard-issue PPE should still be of a good quality and brand. I would have an issue with a company that uses really cheap and awful PPE in the hope operators would upgrade to something decent.


You can’t just issue it; you have to check it now and again. All company owners will cast an eye over their issued PPE in the course of day to day activity and I have heard several examples of ‘advice’ about ‘getting those bl!**y trousers stitched up you slovenly git’ over the years.

This is another of those areas where the checks are done but no records are created. We operate in a world where you need to demonstrate compliance by documentary means. If you want to be able to prove you are working to the standard, PPE check records are required. You won’t be surprised to learn I also have a form for this so let me know if you would like a copy.

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Some organisations will have an army style parade in the morning whilst others will simply record informal checks. It doesn’t matter how you achieve the end result, but the association will expect to see everyone wearing appropriate PPE in a good state of repair and records of regular checking.

A few of our customers have added all of the items of PPE to the list of climbing and rigging equipment so that operators sign that they have checked it every week.
Finally, it is worth collecting up the company’s T-shirts and sweatshirts from employees who decide to move on because you just never know where they are going to end up. We have been involved in a case where a bloke wearing the shirt of one of my clients totally butchered a tree. The officer from the local authority complained to the company about the awful job they had done and, despite vigorous denial, muck sticks and a reputation was tarnished.

A slightly less serious (in fact, really funny) story is where one of my colleagues from a company in London saw a homeless person lying asleep in a doorway next to a main train station wearing the company’s jumper.

I hope that this helps and as usual, if you would like any help with the items I have mentioned in my articles, please just drop me an email.

Best of luck.