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New AA Safety Guides replace aerial tree work AFAG Guides

Author:  Simon Richmond
Last Updated:  16/03/2021

Simon Richmond, Senior Technical Officer

The new Safety Guides

As part of the development and publication of the new aerial tree work Technical Guides (TGs), the Association has also published a Safety Guide relating to each one.

In the Technical Guides, the beginning of each technical section starts with a Safety Checklist summarising the key safety points; all of the checklists in each TG have been compiled to create the Safety Guides, which are available as free-to-download PDFs from the Association’s website: www.trees.org.uk/Safety-Guides.

This series of Safety Guides has been developed to help operators and those responsible for their supervision, e.g. the Competent Person, to identify the key safety points in relation to activities involving tree work at height.

They provide guidance on good practice and are set out as a checklist of questions which may be helpful in considering what you need to do. They are not a substitute for adequate training or for the full Technical Guides. They can be used to monitor activities on site and as a record of auditing and any actions required.

It has been a convention in the forestry and arboriculture sectors to have nationally recognised, free-to-access safety information. Originally, this was provided by the Forestry Commission via the Forestry Safety Council, which developed the original FSC safety guides and associated checklists. This material was extended to address aerial tree work when the Arboriculture Safety Council (ASC) was formed in the early 1990s and then the two were brought together, along with the Forestry Training Council (FTC), as the Forestry and Arboriculture Safety and Training Council (FASTCo). When FASTCo was dissolved in 2002, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group (AFAG) took over publication of the guides. However, the HSE prefers that this level of industry guidance comes from industry, and so, in 2013, it was agreed that safety guidance for forestry should be provided by the newly formed Forest Industry Safety Accord (FISA) and that the Arboricultural Association should take over responsibility for providing industry safety guidance for our sector, including all aerial tree work activities.

Safety Guide 1 page 4
Safety Guide 1 page 5

This process led to the Association’s development and publication of the first edition of the Industry Code of Practice for Arboriculture (ICoP) in 2015 and its subsequent revision and second edition in 2020, along with the publication of four of the five Technical Guides and their associated Safety Guides at the end of last year. The fifth technical guide, TG3: Rigging and Dismantling, and its associated Safety Guide, is due to be published this year.

  • The new Safety Guide 1 replaces AFAG Guides 401: Tree Climbing Operations and 402: Aerial Tree Rescue.
  • Safety Guide 2 replaces AFAG Guide 308: Top-handled Chainsaws.
  • Safety Guide 5 replaces AFAG Guide 403: Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) for Tree Work.

These AFAG Guides will be withdrawn from the tree work pages on the HSE’s website as part of planned revision. They will be replaced with links to the Arboricultural Association’s Safety Guides.

The remaining AFAG Guides (604: Wood Chippers and 606: Mobile Stump Grinders) will remain available as AFAG publications until the Association has developed its next suite of Technical Guidance and associated Safety Guides.

The Technical Guides themselves set a new standard of provision for our sector, defining industry good practice for specific operations with comprehensive explanation, diagrams and photos. The Safety Guides, while functioning as an excellent stand-alone reference for safe work practice, also support the more detailed guidance, as a check on understanding and for compliance.

This article was taken from Issue 192 Spring 2021 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.