How we prioritise safety at Yarra Eco Pty Ltd

Written by Joshua Mcdowell

Arborist Manager

Yarra Eco Pty Ltd

Arborist Manager at Yarra Eco Pty Ltd

Thanks in advance for sharing this article.

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It’s no secret that climbing untested structures, whilst using a combination of balance and ropes to secure a position, to cut heavy objects with power machinery, is a job that naturally carries elevated levels of risk. With that being said, due to the vast amount of variables that all pose potential risks and a threat to life/property, we take the implementation of safety measures extremely seriously. 

There are multiple stages throughout the process of planning and carrying out tree work, in which we can assess risk. We are then in a position to be able to prepare and implement control measures, to eliminate or reduce that risk to an acceptable level, or, plan an alternative approach if the level of risk is just too high.

tree climber reducing the height of a tree

The quotation stage

Right from the outset, our trained and experienced professionals are geared to be on the lookout for hazardous situations that may present themselves within a tree job. We will ask a series of questions, during our initial telephone conversation to start creating a picture in the mind’s eye, of exactly which kind of task is afoot. Once we’ve set a time and a date, our quoting expert will arrive with you at your home or business to assess your need for an arborist. 

We will inspect the site access, to make sure that any equipment we may need to utilise can be brought into the work zone without creating a hazard or causing property damage. During the assessment of access, we will be looking out for the most appropriate way to remove the branches and debris (if your job requires this). Although this seems like a straightforward thing to gauge, sometimes the easiest route is not always the most obvious. At Yarra Eco Pty Ltd, we pride ourselves on delivering dynamic and flexible solutions. In this scenario, the solutions can come in the form of working out a ‘controlled Speedline’ route over the top of fixed structures or removing fencing to access a neighbouring property where vehicle access is more easily obtained.

four wheel drive access vehicle on customers driveway

Once access has been established, we’ll be on the lookout for anything to do with the tree/(s) that could be harmful. We’re assessing large deadwood which could break and fall spontaneously; hanging broken branches which are already detached and balancing within the tree canopy; root heave which indicates that the tree structure could be unstable; fungal/fruiting bodies or ants nests which can indicate decaying wood, and general tree health. When we assess a tree for harmful or dangerous potential, we must consider environmental factors such as wasps or bees. We must also consider that the proposed works could present harm to fauna like nesting birds or possums and inspect for their presence accordingly. If we do encounter wildlife, it is imperative that we consider the best options to navigate the wildlife. As hypothetical examples, these options could present as a pest controller for the eradication of European wasps or a trained wildlife handler to relocate possums. It’s in everybody’s best interest to identify wildlife at the quoting stage, as there have been a couple of recent jobs which we’ve had to postpone due to wasp nests… We all miss things sometimes!

Underground services are best avoided, as they’re often dangerous to come into contact with and costly to fix. If your job requires stump grinding or excavation of any kind, we’ll be looking for telltale signs of services being present. Water taps, NBN boxes and gas meters are some of but not all of the services indicators that we look for. In the case of any uncertainty surrounding the location of services on your property, we can request a free ‘DIALB4DIG’ report. As at the date of publishing this blog, Yarra Eco Pty Ltd has currently had 0 incidents surrounding underground services and we aim to keep it that way!

On the job

Our work environments in the arboricultural industry are often dynamic and ever-changing. We must work hard to continually monitor risks and manage them accordingly throughout the job. The initial ‘Job Safety Analysis’ is performed at the start of each new worksite, and at the beginning of each day on that worksite if the job requires work over more than one day. It must be reviewed regularly and updated if any variables have changed.

The ‘JSA’ is a complex, legally binding document that should be completed by the on-site crew leader, in discussion with the entirety of the workforce present. Each person should try to contribute or comment on the methodology of the task at hand, to ensure a smooth and low-risk situation. It’s important that even the newest and least experienced people on-site offer their ideas, as sometimes experience breeds complacency and potential hazards could be overlooked. During the Job Safety Analysis, the discussion will address the following factors (all in line with the companies Safe Work Method Statements):

  • The main activities
  • Visual tree assessment
  • Access hazards
  • Environmental factors
  • Appropriate PPE
  • Overhead power lines
  • Establishing a ‘drop zone’
  • Equipment and machinery 
  • Fatigue 
  • Any other factors that may impact job safety
  • Staff competency for the tasks required
  • Traffic and pedestrian management/safety
A certain level of risk management is continuously at play, in a climber’s subconscious. As qualified and experienced climbing arborists, there are hundreds of potentially risk presenting factors that are just ‘second nature’ through having carried out the same tasks so many times previously. The type of wood is just one example of something that could present issues for the untrained tree worker. We know that we’re able to ‘step cut’ a certain sized limb on a Platanus x Acerifolia (London plane tree), and we know that the limb in question will not snap and land on your greenhouse. We also know that performing the same sequence of cuts on a European ash, or on a Paulownia, could end disastrously as these trees behave completely differently. Unfortunately clients usually only learn the importance of hiring a professional, once it’s too late. If ya don’t know, now ya know… Ya know?

Processes and administration

At Yarra Eco Pty Ltd, we value safety as our top priority. We devote a serious amount of time and energy to making sure that every necessary safety standard is met. Although we’re a small company, we do not use this as an excuse to present suboptimal safety practices. We carry ourselves with the same (if not more) integrity and accountability as the giant players in the industry. Here are a few administrative controls that we use, to keep our team and our customers safe.
  • Job Safety Analysis (JSA)
  • Pre-start Vehicle Inspections
  • Climbing Kit Inspections
  • Toolbox and Safety Meetings
  • Open Door Safety Culture
  • Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS)
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
  • Continuous Training and Upskilling
  • Regular Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance
  • ‘Tagging Out’ Faulty Equipment
  • Vetting of Employees and Contractors
Administrative procedures and safety forms; hi-viz uniform and toolbox meetings; vehicle servicing and SWMS all play their role, but more important than anything mentioned in this blog is a genuine want and need to look out for each other. Only through the act of taking responsibility for our work-family; saying NO when the risk is too high, and backing up each other’s decisions, will we ensure safety in the workplace. 
Arborist company in melbourne's eastern suburbs

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you would like to discuss any of the information mentioned, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Yarra Eco Pty Ltd.

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