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Your Critical Duty as a Tree Climber

Date: 4 March 2016
Written by: Ryan Senechal - Senior safety and training officer - B.C Plant Healthcare Inc.

Maintaining a full-time position over the long haul comes with changing expectations on climbing arborists. Many Tree Care workplaces have relaxed enforcement of policies on fall protection systems, equipment and procedures (when compared to other trades in our region) for many reasons such as the level of training or certification that key staff have acquired, internet training resources, and because it is difficult as an employer to stay on top of the new gear and techniques available to climbers.

Many climbing arborists have the freedom to choose which climbing system to use, when and where they inspect their equipment, and how they interpret industry practices. Employers utilizing contract climbers rarely inspect gear or perform competency checks on their contractors. For some, this freedom has the potential to sow seeds of complacency. This is a freedom that is not common to industry at large and may be taken away in a heartbeat when regulators decide it represents a hazard to workers. Industry incident statistics spiking as a result of this freedom may not be likely, but people will get hurt when mistakes are made.
Like it or not, most of us have a role to play in the development of new climbing arborists, and your acts or omissions as a trainer could hinder or harm that development in both the short or long term. I have a problem with the idea that I could contribute bad information into a feedback loop affecting not only myself, but my trainee’s future trainees. I’ve given bad information in the past from people I assumed to be the source. I’ve given information in the past that I assumed to be common sense, that was inaccurate. The lessons to be learned? How quickly information can travel when it comes to our industry practices and equipment, and the need to ensure that the information you utilize is from a credible resource.

Incorrect tree climbing equipment configuration

About that critical duty as a tree climber: Your critical duty is to not only know your work procedures inside and out, but also be able to communicate and teach them in accordance with regulators, your company, your client, gear manufacturers, etc. The next time you provide information to a client, a fellow climber, or a trainee, consider whether you can defend that information with a more compelling source than your own assurance. It is next to impossible to know everything there is to know about our equipment, safe work procedures, bylaws and other regulations, but learning where to find those answers is a step in the right direction.



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