Tree surgery is an extremely high-risk activity and requires comprehensive understanding and compliance with health & safety legislation. It is an essential aspect of business for anyone trading as a self-employed tree surgeon as well as anyone running a tree surgery business.
The main risks face by tree surgeons are the use of dangerous equipment, falls from height, injuries from falling trees or branches, exposure to sawdust and other volatile substances that can cause respiratory problems.
You can view full guidance on the Health & Safety Executive website on tree work health and safety.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 sets that all employers, including self-employed individuals, are required to undertake a risk assessment of their workplace. This includes each place where tree surgery work is carried out. The HSE has published more details about how to carry out a risk assessment.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 impose duties related to the organisation and planning of all work at height. Employers (self-employed included) must ensure that employees are properly trained and supervised. Equipment such as climbing harnesses, ladders, etc must be suitable and fit for working at height. You can find more information on the Arboricultural Association website.
Requirements regarding the use and maintenance of work equipment is set out in the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992. Some machinery will reguire formal qualifications. For example, tree surgeons must be able to demonstrate they are competent using a chainsaw by obtaining mandatory qualifications. You can find all essential information in this brief guide by the HSE.
Certain lifting equipment have separate requirements, such as hydraulic lifts. These requirements are set out in the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. Find more information about the LOLER regulations on the HSE website.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 adds requirements regarding the provision and use of personal protective equipment. Tree surgeons should make sure that they wear protective clothing safety helmets, hearing protectors, eye protection, gloves and boots when appropriate. The HSE has a list of personal protective equipment required for chainsaw work.
Regarding hazardous substances, tree surgeons must have measures in place to protect themselves as well as clients. Potential harmful substances can include petrol fumes and sawdust. All regulations are laid out in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
Health & safety requirements can be quite complex and need to be carefully understood and applied. We will detail these requirements in later posts but in the meantime remember that the HSE website is a great resource to get more information.