Tree Surgery and Aerial Tree Rescue

Health & Safety Toolbox Talk

28th August 2019 | Info

Do you want to be climbing a tree with a groundsman who couldn’t rescue you in the event of an accident?

We have all heard the many stories and seen the horrendous videos on YouTube of accidents up trees, and fortunately, most are relatively minor. More often than not, the casualty has usually been able to lower themselves to the ground. But what about the stories of those unfortunate tree surgeons who have suffered severe injury to their necks and have passed out instantly?

 It is extremely important as tree surgeons in this highly hazardous industry that we provide ourselves with adequate Health and Safety measures for the tasks we carry out daily. One of these measures is emergency rescue. All Arborists should be trained and qualified to carry out an Aerial Tree Rescue. However, it is also important for there to be at least one member of staff on the ground who is also trained and qualified to carry out an Aerial Tree Rescue. It is recommended that the Aerial Rescue training should be refreshed annually by a qualified trainer. As Arborists, we hope that we never have to use this training, which means that the process may not get put into practice by businesses very regularly. Therefore, it is very important to be refreshed in this area yearly.

Mock aerial rescues within companies who are serious about this very important aspect of the tree industry have proven that we all forget and are very rarely prepared.

You will see below a schedule for Aerial Tree Rescue that can be run in-house by Tree surgery businesses. We recommend that this in-house refresher training is done in between the annual refresher certification so that the procedures involved stay fresh in the operative’s minds.

Aerial Rescue – In House Training Schedule

Different rescue methods

There are a variety of aerial tree rescue methods that can be adopted. The method that is chosen for the rescue will depend on the situation. The main factors being the extent of the injury sustained by the casualty and the assistance available on the ground. The following types of rescue may be adopted:

  • Using both the Casualty’s rope (when long enough and undamaged) and the rescuer’s rope.
  • Using a single rope (if the casualty’s rope being too short, damaged or trapped).
  • A Pole Rescue (using climbing irons and a flip line) to make a false anchor point with the casualty attached to the rescuer’s line.
  • A Belay Rescue where the rescuer climbs above the casualty whilst taking an additional rope and attaching it to an anchor and to the casualty, and then lowers the casualty to the ground.
  • Use of a Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP).

2 Line Rescue (using both the rescuer's line and the casualties line)

  1. Initial communication with the casualty must be made.
  2. Once the casualty has been assessed, co-ordination of ground crew must be done to aid the rescue.
  3. Dependent on the situation, a request must be made for the emergency services.
  4. If applicable, all involved in the aerial rescue must be aware of roles.
  5. Access the tree and make sure a suitable anchor point is attained.
  6. The rescuer must then descend to the casualty.
  7. The area around casualty must be made safe.
  8. The rescuer then attaches the casualty to themselves with a direct attachment and a chest strap if required.
  9. The rescuer then descends themselves and the casualty to the ground while operating both friction hitches.

 

Single Line Rescue (when casualties rope is too short, damaged or trapped)

  1. Initial communication with the casualty must be made.
  2. Once the casualty has been assessed, co-ordination of ground crew must be done to aid the rescue.
  3. Dependent on the situation, a request must be made for the emergency services.
  4. If applicable, all involved in the aerial rescue must be aware of roles.
  5. Access the tree and make sure a suitable anchor point is attained.
  6. The rescuer must then descend to the casualty.
  7. The area around casualty must be made safe.
  8. The rescuer then attaches the casualty to their (the rescuer’s) harness with a direct attachment and attaches a chest strop if required.
  9. The rescuer then secures the casualty to their (the rescuer’s) rope.
  10. The rescuer then unclips the casualty from their system or cuts the rope if required.
  11. The rescuer then descends to the ground while operating the friction hitch.

 

Pole Rescue (using climbing irons and flip line)

  1. Initial communication with the casualty must be made.
  2. The rescuer then accesses the tree using climbing irons and a flip line.
  3. The rescuer ascends to the casualty.
  4. A suitable anchor point is then attained (a ‘false anchor’ if on a pole).
  5. The rescuer then secures the casualty to the rescue system.
  6. Then, the rescuer attaches the casualty to their (the rescuer’s) harness with a direct attachment, and a chest strop if required.
  7. The rescuer then detaches the casualty from the pole.
  8. The rescuer will then descend to the ground while operating the friction hitch.

 

Belay Rescue

  1. Initial communication with the casualty must be made.
  2. The rescuer then accesses the tree using climbing irons and a flip line.
  3. The rescuer then ascends to the casualty.
  4. A suitable anchor point is then attained (a ‘false anchor’ if on a pole).
  5. Ground staff must set up an appropriate, fail-safe system on the ground.
  6. The rescuer then secures the casualty to the rescue system.
  7. Then, the rescuer detaches the casualty from the pole.
  8. Casualty descent is then to be controlled by a ground person under the direction of the rescuer using the appropriate fail-safe method.
  9. The rescuer descends the tree using climbing irons and flip line.

 

MEWP Rescue (Mobile Elevated Work Platform)

  1. Initial communication with the casualty must be made.
  2. The rescuer then accesses the tree using a MEWP.
  3. The rescuer then ascends to the casualty and positions the casualty inside the MEWP bucket.
  4. The rescuer then attaches the casualty to the MEWP at a suitable attachment point.
  5. The rescuer detaches the casualty from their system.
  6. The rescuer then descends the tree using the MEWP.

 

Minimum Rescue Kit

  • Work positioning harness
  • Long climbing rope
  • Side strop/ flip line
  • Climbing irons
  • Friction hitch (prussic loop) x 2
  • Long tape sling (chest strop)
  • Short tape sling/soft link
  • Karabiners x 5
  • Emergency first aid kit and knife

 

The Munter Hitch

This knot is a friction hitch that is used widely for rappelling and belaying. It is a very useful knot to know with regards to Aerial Rescue. You may find when descending with two people on one rope, that there is a lot of friction due to the added weight of the casualty. This can make a descent quite difficult. With a Munter Hitch tied into the system before the main friction hitch, the friction can be controlled, and your decent will become easier and smoother by taking the main weight on the Munter hitch and feeding the rope to the main friction hitch.

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