Good Groundies Are Invaluable To Climbers

Here we are heading into winter at the half way point through 2021 and looking back at the past year or so and how the world has changed.

We really do live in the lucky country and it would seem like it’s business as usual for us in the arboricultural industry. We are a pretty resilient bunch generally, always able to go with the flow with the ability to change and adapt to whatever situation faces us – even surviving in the face of great challenge and adversity.

Don’t forget though that we have a huge duty of care to continue to maintain and protect our wonderful environment along with the need to be vigilant, practice good hygiene in all areas of our work and life and to be able to recognise the need to be responsible for our countries biosecurity.

At TFT we encourage our students to be team players and be inclusive of all on site. We believe that everyone should have an input and a responsibility towards safety and, basically, if anyone thinks or sees something that they feel is not right, they must do something about it, ask the question or sound a warning, even if they are not sure – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Along with our duty of care obligations it is also a WHS requirement for everyone in the workplace to have received relevant training regarding their roles and to be deemed as competent and current in their required skills and to demonstrate an ongoing process dedicated to improving their skills and knowledge through continual professional development.

It is always exciting to see new entrants to our industry and as trainers we have the honourable task of training and guiding new recruits through the entry process to a career that is often life changing and lasts a lifetime.

When introducing our most recent intake of students to the start of their journey to being a qualified arborist more than half the group expressed a desire to be tree climbers.

A small percentage said they just wanted to cut trees, drive trucks and use a chipper and some said they wanted to own their own business one day. So how do we guide them along the pathways that can be taken for a lifelong career?

How will they get to become a future tree climber consultant, manager or business owner?

While there is no easy answer, it generally requires following a tried and tested process, often termed as an apprenticeship, involving carrying out the hard yards and starting out at the bottom as a groundie.

There is a need to spend time learning how to become part of a team, dragging brushwood and carrying logs to feed the chipper, progressing to learning a few simple knots to be able to tie things on the climber’s line and to develop some tree knowledge along the way.

This may not seem too glamorous as most entrants to the arb world just want to put on a harness and start swinging around in the tree using a chainsaw straight away and this would obviously not be considered as an acceptable practice prior to receiving the correct training.

Our advice to new students upon entering the arboricultural profession is to spend as much time learning the processes and procedures of the job as possible, ask lots of questions and make an effort to learn some tree names. Even when you are dragging branches to the chipper you could be learning about trees. How do they smell? How heavy is the wood? Do you get splinters in your hands? What colour is the timber? Are there flowers or fruits? Why is the heartwood soft or hollow? What is in the pruning standard AS4373?

Attend events such as workshops trade shows and climbing competitions, frequent your local supplier, don’t just learn by watching demonstrations on YouTube and solely relying on advice from your old mate Google, go to the shows, walk into the shop, see the gear for real and talk with the experts!

Combine this knowledge of which some can be learned in your own time and the rest at the workplace, take some ownership over your future career, be excited and look forward to the challenges and potentially substantial rewards.

To be able to be considered a qualified person within the arboricultural industry the general requirements are that you will complete a period of training and assessment based in both the practical workplace environment and the classroom.

The minimum industry requirement to enable you to be officially recognised as a qualified arborist is to attain the Certificate III in Arboriculture.

This qualification is currently classified within Australian Standard definitions and accepted by industry throughout Australia as the minimum industry standard requirement to be able to be considered as a trade level qualified working arborist.

The journey to achieve the Certificate III in Arboriculture qualification currently involves the completion of industry endorsed units of competency that have been designed according to industry requirements and composed, engineered checked and industry approved.

Employers often struggle to recruit new climbers and we believe that one of the best ways to ensure a continuity of qualified efficient staff would be to ensure that you are involved with and able to properly mentor any apprentices that you employ through their training in the workplace as well as having an active interest in their training, while they are also enrolled in an arboricultural course of study.Work with your apprentice and encourage them at every opportunity.

In the world of a tree Maintenance Company the key to efficiency is teamwork and good ground crew are the backbone of any successful team.

Ground crew
I am concerned to find that often groundies are generally unaware as to how important their role is within the tree industry workplace and they feel that all they have to worry about is dragging brush and log wood to feed the chipper and what time their next smoko would be!

Employers usually have high expectation of groundies and usually a large range of requirements as standard, so we have put together a basic list of tasks and considerations for groundies to help them meet these obligations as follows.

  • Use a simple checklist when loading up the truck in the morning, when moving worksites and packing up at the end of the day to keep track of and manage the equipment minimising loss and damage. The checklist could be handwritten on a notepad or electronic on mobile phone for example
  • Load up in the morning with all the basic kit ensuring contents of the first aid kit are sufficient, vehicle and trailer lights and all fuel and oil levels are checked
  • Complete any maintenance logs and list all machinery and equipment loaded on to vehicles
  • Ensure that all the tools and equipment remain together and in sight for the duration of each job When arriving at the jobsite it is often the groundie who will go to meet the customer and check the work required against the job sheet. Generally remember the groundie will be acting as an ambassador for the company so make sure they have been trained in the way you would like them to portray your company
  • If they are not delegated to meet the customer, then they should be doing things like placing out warning signs and witches hats around the worksite and the truck and chipper as necessary
  • Check that that work vehicles are not parked over adjacent driveways or blocking any of the neighbours access and be prepared to help guide any neighbours driving their cars that may be trying to pull out of driveways that have had their view of the road obscured by the truck and chipper or the warning signs
  • Tools and equipment must not be left unattended and should be getting prepared for use, fuelled up and inspected
  • To prevent damaging customer’s property, tools and equipment should be placed on a tarp to prevent any mishaps with spilt fuel and oil on lawns and paved surfaces!
  • Check out and move any breakables such as plant pots or garden ornaments out of the work area if possible or identify them and cover them up for protection if they can’t be moved
  • What about the pool? If there is a cover, pull it over the pool to reduce the amount of debris that may enter
  • A good groundie is part of the team and is invaluable to a climber and should be able to anticipate when a lowering line may be required or when to send up the water bottle, don’t wait for the saw to run out of fuel and then have to be told to get the can to fill up, listen out for the tell-tale signs of the saw running out of fuel and be ready with the can so that the climber does not have hang around for too long
  • Sending gear up the tree to the climber involves tying things on the rope, so learn some decent knots. There is nothing worse than the saw or water bottle arriving up the tree with a rope badly wrapped and knotted up that is a struggle to undo and if it comes undone half way up!
  • It is the job of the ground crew to keep all ropes tidy and away from areas where they could be damaged, especially chippers!
  • As a groundie as well as being responsible for managing any ropes and rigging systems on the ground you are also able to guide the climber around the tree, point out deadwood or hanging branches and comment on the overall shape and appearance during pruning works, while keeping an eye on the climbers progress, anchor points and any snags the rope may catch on
  • It is also an important part of the journey to becoming a climber that you spend time observing the climbers and any aerial works on site and that you ask questions about what is going on as this also forms an invaluable part of your learning experience
  • Remember the most important part of all is the clean up. Make sure that the yard looks tidier than before you started, don’t just blow all the stuff on the beds and borders as “mulch”. If you covered the pool or moved any ornaments make sure to put everything back as you found it and don’t forget to clean up well around the truck and chipper, remember to clean the dust off the chipper
  • At the end of the day use the checklist, make sure all tools and equipment are accounted for, free from defects and correctly loaded on the truck.

Employers, remember, new workers don’t grow on trees! If you want to have reliable professional staff you have to be prepared to invest in them. As your trainees are working their way through the training and learning process they will steadily begin to repay your investment in their future by becoming more useful and able to operate more efficiently within your company.

“It has been proven that independent training and assessment increases staff retention safety awareness productivity and efficiency”.

Can you demonstrate that you have adequately maintained compliance and currency?

Have your staff members attended recent courses workshops or verification of competency (VOC) sessions?

Can you demonstrate evidence of recent staff training or updating within your company?

  • When did you last organise an aerial rescue practice day? Or audit the pruning standards within your crew? These sorts of sessions are great team builders and also help to promote safety and confidence within your workers
  • Do you have a safety policy that includes safe work method statements, risk assessment and machinery checklists?
  • Have staff members attended recent courses workshops or verification of competency (VOC) sessions?
  • Are all qualifications certificates and licences up to date?

Making the effort and spending the time to study and achieve the relevant arboricultural qualifications will lead you on a lifelong journey in one of the most diverse industries I know and build a skill base that once all the travel restrictions are lifted you will enable you to use your skills anywhere in the world.

“Training is as important as the servicing of vehicles and machinery, after all, workers are the machinery that you run and need to maintain to enable the smooth operation of your business”.

Once you have achieved the Certificate III in Arboriculture served your time in the physical side of the job or just want to consolidate and recognise your industry experience the next step would be to continue your progression within the arboricultural industry and consider the progression from trade level working arborist to the next level which is to undertake the Diploma of Arboriculture.

To achieve the Diploma of Arboriculture you will embark on a journey that will see you develop and gain an intimate and considerable working tree knowledge, you will be educated through a combination of training and assessment methods resulting in your successful completion of 10 nationally recognised industry endorsed units of competency that make up the Diploma of Arboriculture.

To consider and comply with the broad expectations of the arboriculture industry and the emphasis on training and standards and the requirements of the Diploma of Arboriculture our students follow a process that covers the following points:

  • Introduction into the workings of a tree with its anatomy and physiology explained and explored
  • Specification and planting of new trees
  • Introduction and overview of legislation and compliance requirements
  • Extensive Visual tree assessment and
  • risk management
  • Disease and decay diagnosis
  • and management
  • Looking after trees on development sites
  • Preparation and submission of quality reports for clients and management

“Any tree particularly if it is lucky enough to be under the supervision of a TFT qualified arborist will be a very happy tree indeed”

Training for Trees is a registered training organisation (RTO). We are completely independent and are not auspiced attached to or operating under the direction or licence of any other RTO, TAFE or parent company. This means we are personally able look after our students and employers at every step of their journey and beyond.

If you want to be officially classified as a qualified arborist you will need to complete the appropriate level of qualification:

  • Tree worker or climbing Arborist Certificate III in Arboriculture
  • Consulting Arborist Diploma of arboriculture.

“Safety Rules”
Check out your eligibility for funding. Enrol now for the next intake Certificate III in Arboriculture and Diploma. Contact us for your qualifications, short courses, VOC, RPL and refresher training. Train with us and leaf qualified. For more information go to the website or send an email at

Send this to a friend