A Safer Way To Work: Tips for Your Arborist Business

Australia is suffering from a shortage of arborists, with an extra 20,000 needed by 2027, according to industry sources.

Whether staffing is an issue for your arborist business, it’s vital to keep the spotlight on safety. This article covers a range of tips to help revisit and refresh your risk management approach.

Assessing the tree

Check the tree’s condition and stability, by looking for:

  • A heavy lean
  • Evidence of bark inclusion
  • Dead branches and hollows
  • Decay in the structure of the tree
  • Signs of fungal fruiting bodies, concealed nests of insect colonies
  • Branches from other trees that intrude into the tree being inspected.

As well, assess the ground movement around the tree root plate, when you push or pull the tree. Consider, too, if the type of tree is prone to branch failure when under load.

Plant and equipment 

Always inspect and maintain your gear according to the instructions and updates.

When you’re on site, ensure you follow these best practices:

  • Don’t use your mobile plant on soft ground, near underground assets, recently filled excavations, slopes/uneven surfaces, or if not designed for such work
  • Avoid attaching ropes to the plant or equipment
  • Use the brake on your chainsaw when not in use and don’t ‘drop start’ it when working on the ground
  • Position the elevated work platform (EWP) at the same level or above where you’re cutting
  • Ensure workers in that platform wear a full body harness, so if the basket snags and the boom springs back, they aren’t flung out
  • Do not use  an EWP to carry fuel.


Safe Work Australia’s guide warns against using a ladder to access trees for arborist work, due to the significant risk. Instead, use climbing spikes you maintain following the manufacturer’s recommendations that minimise damaging tree tissues.

Set up an appropriate rope-climbing system. Be sure it has the correct knots on a part of the tree that should withstand the force of a fall.

Use a flip line and a climbing rope – an example of two attachment points to a tree – while moving on or cutting a dead tree.

Other safety tips for arborists

Tree work can be hazardous, so carrying out a thorough risk assessment once you arrive on site is an excellent investment. Have personal protective equipment available, including hard hats and high-visibility vests (done up, not left open). Wearing safety glasses reduces the risk of sawdust or dust damaging eyes.

Work in pairs or groups, with at least one of your team on the ground to check for weak areas and to identify dead branches. Think through scenarios if your tree surgeon in the crown gets into trouble, would the person on the ground be able to help them? Be among the four in 10 arborists who do carry a personal first aid kid when working in the tree crown. Allow workers regular rest and refreshment breaks.

Technology, such as drone-mounted scanners, can help you reduce risks. Electronic scanners that use radar or sonar can create two or three-dimensional images of the inside of a tree. This can help identify unhealthy or dangerous trees, as well as assess the risk of tree failure. Data from these scanners can be fed into artificial intelligence models to create models to predict the chance of tree failure.

Meanwhile, a lot of the tips above relate to when you’re working on the tree. However, did you know that research shows arborists face hazards in loading and unloading their work vehicles?

An extra level of protection

We’re here to support you and your business for risk management. Let us tailor insurance coverage for you based on the most common policies for arborists. They’ll cover the risks involved in pruning, tree lopping, stump removal, and general tree care, so they’re specific to your industry.

Important covers include:

  • Public liability, for claims from a third party
  • Equipment/property, should your gear be stolen or destroyed
  • Accident or sickness policy

If you need to claim, these can cover you for medical bills, and to compensate third parties for their injuries or property damage.

When you package several policies together, you may be able to get a discounted premium. Speak with us to learn more.