TFTC #1 Introducing Tips from the Canopy

Brandon Nance Jul 26th 2018

We are excited to kick off a new project: Tips From the Canopy! We have a lot of great ideas for this blog: safety and educational topics, new product reviews and insight, videos, climber interviews, techniques, event announcements and more.

“This industry is hazardous; our choices make it dangerous.”

The title is a quote I first heard several years ago from professional arborist, trainer and author, Tony Tresselt. It is something that has always stuck with me. This industry is indeed a hazardous profession. In the most simplistic way, we take big sticks and turn them into little sticks (thanks to Tobias Wygand for the most simple analogy yet). There certainly is so much more involved than that. Take working at height, mix in extreme weights and forces from branches and blocks of wood being rigged, pour in various angles in a three dimensional space, add in all the power equipment and machinery and it is a recipe for a hazardous work site.

With ever-present hazards in our face, why are so many in the industry not making Personal Protective Equipment a priority for themselves and everyone on the job site? When referring to head protection, we have often used the saying “What is your brain worth?” In reality it should be, “What is your life worth?” It only takes one seemingly innocent piece of dead wood connecting with your noggin to permanently flip the light switch off.

We recently had storms come through the area consisting of heavy rains and high winds. The next morning crews were out assessing the damage and beginning the clean up. It quickly became apparent that lack of concern for proper PPE continues. More than likely there are multiple reasons for this, which could be and have been part of a larger discussion. Regardless of how we have arrived in the current state of less than 100% adoption of following PPE standards, the fact remains that there is room for improvement.

Looking to the ANSI Z133-2017 Safety Requirements, we can find the safety regulations that affect everyone on the job site. We need to remember that these regulations are not meant to impede anyone’s ability to perform their job, but rather allow us to go home at the end of the day so we can live to climb and cut another day. It is also necessary to be familiar with any state regulations as it pertains to your work.

The ANSI Z133-2017 goes into many General Safety Regulations (Section 3) ranging from emergency procedures, job briefings, to fire protection and other areas. Let’s look at something that unfortunately is still ignored on many job sites; head protection. Even with struck-by incidents remaining a leading cause of injury and death, people still find reasons not to wear head protection.

ANSI Z133-2017
3.3.4 Workers engaged in arboricultural operations shall wear head protection (helmet) that conforms to ANSI Z89.1. Class E helmets shall be worn when working in proximity to electrical conductors in accordance with ANSI Z89.1. Workers shall not place reliance on the dielectric capabilities of such helmets.

There are many different models of helmets available at different price points, so it is a small investment to protect not only your head, but also your life. Helmet technology has greatly improved and the broad offering of ANSI Z89.1 compliant helmets allows everyone the opportunity to find a comfortable and well-priced option. Check out the video below of the difference between a ANSI Z89.1 compliant helmet and a non-compliant model.

Customers have sent in many photos of helmets that sustained an impact and have stated time and time again, that without the helmet, they are certain the outcome would have been dramatically different. Take a look at the photo of a customer’s helmet after an impact:

The helmet performed as it was designed to and protected the user from serious injury and possible death. Yes, a helmet must be retired after an impact such as this, however that is a small price to pay for protecting yourself.

As with any piece of gear, it is important to inspect PPE before each use. Below is a quick video of what to look for when inspecting your helmet. It is a great idea to inspect your gear and then have someone else inspect it. We are more likely to justify the continued use of a piece of our personal gear than someone else. And when in doubt, replace it!

We are ultimately responsible for our own safety, but in this industry and the type of work environment we encounter, we have the need and responsibility to look out for each other. Head protection is only one part of the necessary PPE. If you do not have a copy of the ANSI Z133, be sure to make it your next purchase. For those who do own it already, make sure you have the most up to date version (2017). Review it often with your crew and make sure everyone understands the importance of PPE on the job site.

We take pride in our gear, and PPE is no less important than any piece of climbing or rigging gear. It could possibly save your life one day. Again, our choices can make a hazardous industry into something dangerous. Going home at the end of the day is what we all want. Live to climb and cut another day.

Climb safe, cut safe.