DEAR editor,

I am writing to voice my concern over proposed changes to the Industry Code of Practice (ICOP) for Arboriculture: Tree Work at Height scheduled for release in 2020.

The draft ICOP advocates that two-rope working for both SRT and MRT (doubled rope), “… must be the preferred method of working at all times.”

One of the major risks to a tree climber is a self-inflicted injury to an arm, either with a chainsaw or pruning saw. Heat stress can also lead to cramp and loss of use of an arm.

At this point, the climber’s fastest route to first aid is self-rescue out of the tree. Having to operate two separate friction systems one-handed, with a severe bleed and probably in a state of shock, is a recipe for disaster.

Further, if you consider that a possible course of action is to remove one of these systems, this can introduce other issues. Undoing an industry standard triple-action carabiner on a tensioned system is difficult and time-consuming when speed of descent is paramount. Alternatively, a stressed casualty introducing a rescue knife to cut away one of the systems doesn’t bear thinking about. A lanyard or flip-line will be safer to remove/cut as it should not be in close proximity or parallel to the high-line.

We must also consider the increased rope presence during aerial rigging work, leading to a greater risk of entanglement, not to mention the higher workload in a difficult and very physical environment. Trees are complex structures that we have to run our ropes through. This can only increase the risk to a climber, not reduce it.

I would like to see full HSE data on climbers suffering a serious fall from a tree, to see how many casualties were actually following the excellent training via City and Guilds or LANTRA for chainsaw use in the tree. Did they have both a high-line and a flip-line/lanyard present as they undertook a chainsaw cut?

While tie-in point failure always remains a possibility, I suspect the data shows that this type of fall incident is rare. Is the ICOP change actually based on incidents where climbers were not following safe working practice when work positioning for chainsaw use?

Without seeing the data mentioned above, I regard this proposed change to policy as over-prescriptive in its calling for two-rope systems. Far better within the new ICOP to offer up twin systems as an option to be considered, as opposed to a must-use default.

I believe the majority of competent and professional tree surgeons/arborists are strongly opposed to this change.

Yours aye,

Jim Mailer

Treeworks Moray Ltd