Industry Code of Practice for Arboriculture Tree Work at Height

In Tree climbing by batsadmin2 Comments

At BATS RTS we have a somewhat unique experience and insight when it comes to surveying trees for bats. With our experience of both the ecological and arboricultural industries, we would like to start a discussion about tree climbing surveys for bats. Specifically, whether ecologists are compliant with the legislation and guidance. This post is one of a series that aims to improve the knowledge of tree climbing ecologists. We hope that this discussion will increase safety when planning and undertaking tree surveys for bats.

This first post will examine recent changes within the arboricultural industry that have an implication on tree climbing surveys for bats. We do not intend to provide legal advice, rather we intend to provide an overview of the changes and a signpost you to the relevant guidance. We recommend that those undertaking tree climbing surveys familiarise themselves with the legislation and guidance.

Industry Code of Practice – what has changed?

The Arboricultural Association has recently published the second edition of the Industry Code of Practice for Arboriculture: Tree Work at Height. The revision of this document has brought much about debate within the arboricultural industry. This was due to the Health and Safety Executive’s reinterpretation of the Work at Height Regulations (2005).

The area that has been subject to reinterpretation is the use, or rather the lack of, backup systems. Until the publishing of the second edition, good practice involved only one climbing system. The industry justified this by using one of two caveats in the legislation; a single system can be used “where it is not reasonably practicable” to use a backup or where the “use of a second line would entail higher risk to persons”.

This update will require changes to all tree climbing operations. The Arboricultural Association are working to support the industry by producing a series of Technical Guides. This will include a guide titled ‘Tree Climbing and Aerial Rescue’. The Arboricultural Association are currently consulting on this document, see here for more information.

Take home messages

Key take home messages at this stage are:

  • Two climbing systems should be used as standard. The backup may only be omitted in cases where it is not practical to maintain it for specific, short-duration tasks (e.g. changeover/rope advance).
  • Ideally, the two systems should be independently anchored to reduce risk of falling due to anchor point failure. Where this is not possible the same anchor can be used.
  • When planning any tree climbing operation full consideration must be given to most appropriate technique. This will be based on various factors including: anchor points selected; efficiency of ascent; fatigue reduction; minimising key risk points (e.g. changeovers); position of rope within the structure and access routes.

This revised guidance reaffirms that there is no one size fits all. Each situation must be considered on its own merits and may require a different approach. This has implications for the equipment used and training of climber. As with any guidance, it is up to the individual to determine whether they wish to comply. However, in the event of a fall, the persons planning the operation will have to justify their actions. Deviating from guidance may find you coming up short.

Next time

Next time will investigate the process of justifying work at height

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