Stay Safe: Double Check Each Other's Gear
I have been doing tree work for 15 years this year. That’s quite a while when I really start to think about it. I haven’t seen everything but at this point in my career, I have seen quite a bit and the more I see, the more concerned I get about the way that things are handled when it comes to safety. Tree work is inherently dangerous. We all know that but are we doing our part to make the industry less dangerous or hazardous to ourselves or our co-workers?
The reason that really brought me to think about this was a recent ice climbing trip I went on with my wife. We hiked out multiple miles on a cliff band that runs above Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The climb we were aiming to climb is called Bridal Veil Falls and it’s about 200’ above the open water of the lake far below. We set up our anchors, tied into the rope and lowered over the edge of the cliff. In the event that anything went wrong, for example, both our anchor points somehow breaking, we would fall into the lake with no way of getting back up nor to any safe place. It’s a bit daunting rappelling over the edge! BUT, before we lowered over the edge, we double checked each other's harnesses, every knot that was tied, our belay devices and the anchor points. EVERYTHING was double checked by EACH OTHER!
Now to bring this back to tree work and the tree industry. I came into work after going on the ice climbing trip and needed to prune and cable a Silver Maple. I set my rope, put my harness on and tied my friction hitch. My other workers were cleaning up another tree and grinding a stump. I threw on my foot ascender and started up into the tree. At about 40’ off the ground I stopped and realized that I had double checked everything but didn’t have anyone else double check my gear. It seemed so strange that something I would do recreationally like ice climbing would warrant a double check from another capable climber while something that I do 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year I pretty much tie in, look my stuff over and give 'er hell! That's crazy when you really think about it.
This is something that should be discussed more often on the job and at safety meetings. For a long time, I was the only climber at my company so it made sense that I was the one that looked over my gear and double checked it. Now I am fortunate enough to have another climber that is more than qualified to double check my gear and it will be put into practice for both of us. There have been so many injuries and deaths that could have been avoided with a simple double check of a hitch, system configuration or scenario while aloft.
This brings me into a second point that shouldn’t be overlooked as well. That point is speaking up when you see something that doesn’t look right to you. I don’t care if you are the newest employee working with us or a seasoned veteran that has seen it all, you still have a voice. Sometimes new eyes see things that my 15 years of experience eyes don’t. By being able to bring up things that could injure, maim, paralyze or kill us is something that should never be downplayed or discouraged. We work in an industry that sees plenty of damage and heartache each week, month and year, There is no reason to extrapolate those risks by taking away someone’s voice that may be the deciding factor in a safe day or not coming home that night.
Just a little bit of food for thought in this blog and I hope you can all take something away from this article. Let us know what types of things you do to help make your day safer in the comments below!