Maximize protection, minimize risk

Through the years, arborists, industry associations, governments and individuals have struggled with the best methods for protecting workers while providing quality service. Some techniques and programs have worked better than others, and all must adapt to changing times, practices and equipment.

Updates in PPE

In November 2007, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) settled the lingering question of who bears the financial responsibility for personal protective equipment (PPE). Effective February 13, 2008, employers must cover the costs of required PPE; implementation must occur by May 15. Exceptions include personal clothing items, such as safety-toe shoes and boots and rain gear.

In the tree care industry, employers may be faced with providing a range of equipment to protect workers during maintenance, removal, pesticide application and electrical work. Eye goggles, protective face masks and respirators and hard hats outfitted for electric shock protection are commonly used. In addition, safety shoes with both impact and compression protection is recommended, along with gloves designed to prevent cuts, burns and chemical absorption. Earmuffs or plugs are needed when noise levels are high; if levels exceed 85 decibels over an eight-hour workday, a hearing conservation program must be established. Ensure that employees are properly fitted and trained in the use of protective devices and that the equipment is maintained at regular intervals.


OSHA requires training in first aid and CPR, blood-borne pathogens, lockout/tagout, forklift operation and electrical hazards if workers will come within 10 feet of overhead electrical conductors. Both OSHA and the American National Standards Institute [ANSI] require pre-job briefings. ANSI recommends training on all climbing and rigging equipment. Department of Transportation guidelines