Working at heights comes with the territory for arborists, and when using an elevated work platform (EWP) it is essential to plan ahead and routinely observe a range of steps in seeking to manage risks.
Of course, given the risks associated with working at heights, it is important to have the right qualifications and proper training for operating an EWP, encompassing a thorough understanding of operational requirements and safety features.
Safe Work Australia (SWA) notes in its Guide to Managing Risks of Tree Trimming and Removal Work that the common hazards and risks of using an EWP for tree trimming and removal work include:
- Coming into contact with overhead electric lines and adjacent structures
- Windy conditions
- Falls from height
- Unstable, sloping, uneven or soft ground, such as recently filled excavations, that could lead to the EWP overturning
- Being struck by falling objects
- Wildlife-related injuries, such as from wasps, bees, birds and possums
The risks involved need to be properly assessed, and it is important to weigh up a range of factors before commencing operations.
Access: Assessing What’s Required
In determining how a tree should be accessed, a thorough assessment of the work that needs to be undertaken should be carried out, which will encompass the suitability of using an EWP.
SWA advises that, where reasonably practicable, EWPs specifically designed to lift people should be used to access a tree, being able to minimise climbing-associated hazards such as dehydration and fatigue, having been designed as a working platform to prevent the worker from falling.
In deciding whether to utilise an EWP to trim or remove a tree, SWA recommends considering:
- Is trimming or removing the tree from the ground safer?
- Are there obstacles present (such as buildings or other trees) that will pose a risk to health and safety, or make access impossible using an EWP?
- Are underground services present (such as water, gas, telephone and electricity services) that may restrict access or locations to set up temporary platforms?
- Do overhead electric lines create worker risk due to the EWP’s position?
- Is the ground level, uneven, sloping, firm or loose, and could this result in the EWP overturning?
- Can the EWP safely reach the required height?
- Will the worker need to lean outside the EWP’s structure?
- Will cutting or lowering of the tree limb, branch or section be impeded by the use of the EWP?
Of course, comprehensive planning and preparation, assessing the unique requirements of each individual project, is critical and will play a key role in determining which type of EWP should be utilised.
Matching The Right Machine To The Task
Across the range of EWPs, from trailer and vehicle-mounted EWPs, to self-propelled EWPs, decked out with booms of varying types and lengths, it is important to match the right machine to the task.
In choosing the type of EWP to use, SWA notes that in addition to determining the sort of work that will be undertaken, ground and weather conditions should be considered, along with the height, reach and lifting capacity required, access limitations and number of workers needed on the EWP.
Of course, along with undertaking thorough planning and preparation, it is important to seek out additional advice when required, particularly so when in doubt about any aspect of using an EWP.
The Guide to Managing Risks of Tree Trimming and Removal Work can be found at the Safe Work Australia website: www. safeworkaustralia.gov.au/
In our next instalment in this series we will talk to the professionals in the industry about the importance of proper protective gear.