A grieving mother who lost her son in a tree care accident in the late 1960s launched a campaign that helped form the American National Standards Institute Z133.
More commonly known as “the ANSI,” or even “the Z” in tree-climbing circles, what today is known as the Z133-2012 is a federal standard that stipulates general work, operations and safety standards for the tree care industry. It’s designed to provide a guiding framework for tree care professionals and their work. Although it doesn’t carry the weight of a regulation, its standards have been adopted by many municipal, state, provincial and federal organizations in their regulation of the tree care industry.
The Z133 was approved in 1972 as an American National Standard. Since then, it’s been under continual revision and review, reflecting changes in the industry’s gear, equipment and techniques. The most recent published version was approved in 2012. Throughout 2016, it was open for public review for a planned update later this year.
The ANSI Z133 isn’t intended to be a “playbook” for carrying out tree care operations.
What it does have is a variety of guidelines for common work activities, including general information on such subjects as traffic control, PPE, electrical hazards, rigging, climbing and removals, along with several appendices designed to help users better follow the guidelines.
Users also will see references to other standards that could be pertinent for tree care, such the ANSI Z89.1 for helmets/hardhats or the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for traffic-control situations.
Every tree care company should have at least one copy of the Z133 available and make its guidelines part of their daily operations. In addition, every tree care worker who wishes to be a responsible professional should be familiar with the ANSI Z133 and make it part of their personal work practices and habits.
After all, how can a company or culture be safe without its members choosing to act and work safely?
Probably the easiest part of the standard to apply is the section on PPE, which is the first line of defense against workplace injuries and accidents; given the cost of injuries, PPE certainly could be viewed as extremely cheap insurance. Safe work practices and techniques go a long way toward preventing injuries and accidents. Some attention paid to the ANSI PPE section can be valuable financially, physically and emotionally.
Electrical hazards are part of tree care on a regular basis. The electrical hazard section in the Z133 provides a basic introduction to some of the unique characteristics of electricity and the ways it can leave a mark on tree care professionals. Of particular importance is the section and table(s) on minimum approach distances — crew members should remember that nonline-clearance-qualified personnel should maintain a 10-foot distance from energized conductors.
Also, while a lot of tree care professionals may not put much thought into how much driving and vehicle operation is a part of their daily operations, safety research has shown that many industry accidents involve driving and/or operating worksite vehicles. The Z133 guidelines are basic and may seem like common sense, but their implementation into everyday work practice, if not already in place, will help make the crew and company safer.
In terms of climbing, the most current Z133 doesn’t specifically address climbing techniques or methods, but it does contain basic information on equipment strength requirements. It also provides some guidelines for certain activities, such as inspection of equipment and lines before use, termination guidelines for connecting links in split-bridge systems and snap hook use.
The rigging section emphasizes the importance of understanding load ratings and the use of working load limits, along with requiring some form of communication system to make the rigging operation not only safer, but also more efficient.
The Z133 does speak to the need to keep uninvolved workers out of the possible impact zone during tree removals — two times the height of the tree — and provides guidelines on exceptions that may arise due to worksite requirements or hazards.