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Personal Protective Equipment

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Using the right gear for the job.

Arborists will typically need to negotiate a wide range of hazards from one job to the next, and for this reason it is important to ensure that every precaution is taken to manage risks, including using personal protective equipment (PPE).

Both employers and employees should play an active role in assessing the nature of the risks presented across different tasks, from working at heights, to tree felling, to operating heavy machinery, and need to ensure that the right PPE is being utilised. From hard hats to gloves and eyewear, PPE can be deployed across different operations as part of a wider and comprehensive approach to risk management.

Risk Management And PPE

Safe Work Australia (SWA) states that PPE is “anything used or worn to minimise risk to workers’ health and safety”, including: boots, ear plugs, face masks, gloves, goggles, hard hats, high-visibility clothing, respirators, safety harnesses, safety shoes and sunscreen.

It is important to be aware of the role of PPE in the context of the hierarchy of risk control measures (actions taken to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks, so far as is reasonably practicable), with SWA advising that PPE is ranked as a level 3 control measure, stating that:

“Level 3 control measures do not control the hazard at the source. They rely on human behaviour and supervision, and used on their own tend to be least effective in minimising risks. Workplaces must not rely on PPE to satisfy their hazard control requirements.”

As such, PPE should only be used as a last resort, as an interim measure and as a back-up, with SWA stating PPE works best when used “to supplement higher-level control measures, or when no other safety measures are available”.

PPE Applications

Of course, businesses will need to assess and manage the risks presented by individual projects, weighing up the range of unique factors that may potentially impact operations, and then take the appropriate steps.

SWA’s Guide to Managing Risks of Tree Trimming and Removal Work advises that PPE should be used for all tree access tasks, and outlines a number of different scenarios in which PPE is part of a range of control measures, including:

Elevated work platforms for tree trimming – wearing PPE such as a safety helmet, gloves, eye protection and safety footwear, while chainsaw operators should also wear cut-resistant leg protection and hearing protection.

Operating in the vicinity of overhead electric lines – using PPE such as cotton or fire-retardant long-sleeve clothing, insulating gloves, protective non-slip safety boots and a safety helmet

Wood chipper operation – PPE to protect eyes and hearing; wearing close-fitting clothing without loose cuffs, straps or strings; gloves should be single-stitched and have long close-fitting cuffs that can be tucked into the sleeves.

Stump grinder operation – wearing PPE such as respiratory, eye, hearing and foot protection

Chainsaws – specific PPE, including a safety helmet, hearing, eye, leg and foot protection, for and

Pole saw operation – PPE such as respiratory, eye, head, hearing and foot protection, and a harness

Powered hedge trimmer operation – wearing PPE such as gloves, eye, head, hearing and foot protection

Processes for clear felling – PPE suitable for the task being carried out, such as a safety helmet, hearing protection, eye and face shields, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and leg protection.

For more information visit www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au

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