Skip to content
The Unsung Heroes of Tree Work & The Expectations of the Groundie

The Unsung Heroes of Tree Work & The Expectations of the Groundie



In the vast and diverse world of Tree Care, there exists a dedicated group of individuals who play a crucial role in ensuring the health, safety, and beauty of our trees – the arborists. Seems like we only ever hear about the tree climber knocking out a crazy tree removal overtop of houses (or whatever the target may be), craning monster sections, or the salesman bragging about their multimillion-dollar tree bid, or better yet; how the safety lead shows up and just seems to find the most minuet thing to ding you on! Yet, we hardly ever hear about what some may consider the unsung heroes of tree work, the underdogs if you would – the GROUNDIE! That’s right, the groundie – doing all the shit you don’t want to! This blog will provide you with some helpful advice to become a successful groundie.

What is a Groundie?

The official job title or titles, goes by ground laborer, groundsmen, or woodsman, but is better known to most in the Tree Care Industry as a GROUNDIE, and they are in charge of working the ground. Simple enough. This groundie has a plethora of job responsibilities that includes, but is not limited to, prepping the job site, assisting the climber, running ropes, cleaning the work site, operating both chainsaws and chipper, along with other equipment! The job position involves a great deal of hard work, you’ll be working in all kinds of weather conditions (along with the crew), and because the job is physically demanding, said person must be in somewhat good condition and be able to lift heavy objects.

Jobsite Prep.

Just as Chefs must do prep, we too must prep the site for the debauchery that is to take place! Upon arrival, don’t wait for someone to instruct you to do something; get out and begin setting up traffic control, consisting of cones and signs. Follow that by fueling (and oiling) up your saws or making sure the battery saws are fully juiced up (if you run these). Psst, don’t forget; the bar and chains of battery saws still require lubrication, so don’t forget to add bar oil. And leads me to prank one; ask the new hire to fuel up the battery powered saw! If they aren’t quick, they will search and search until you get fed up watching them! Sure, it’s dumb but you’ve got to have fun! Back to business. Always find the safest place to fuel up, away from traffic hazards! Nothing else to do… wrong, always plenty to do.

Join the crew in completing their jobsite assessment. Everyone should be included, regardless of position. At this point, the foreman will probably ask you to grab the necessary tools to complete the job and if he hasn’t, ask what is needed. Some foremen have the go-go-go mentality and expect you to know what is required. If you are new to the trade, it’s understandable that you won’t know what’s what but as you become experienced, you should have a general idea as to what tools will be needed while you walk the property.

Assisting the climber.

No, I don’t mean roll out the red carpet and cater to their every whim. I am simply referring to setting a throw line, if you have worked with them long enough and they trust you, clearing out garden ornaments, installing a port-a-wrap, taking a quick second to make sure their climb line is free of debris while they’re aloft, things like that. Here’s a big one, stay in constant communication when there is a climber aloft performing his aerial dance. NEVER assume he knows where you are! Make this mistake and you can get seriously injured. Stay out of the drop zone until clear. Yes, protocol states using the “Command and Response” method, but it is very easy to get hyper focused (both climber and groundie) on the task being accomplished. Using the “chainsaw rev” technique as a way of notifying your ground crew to move… is DUMB! There, I said it. Not only is it unsafe for the entire ground crew but that climber is also putting himself in danger. Think about it for a second; in the tree, aloft, chainsaw full bore, looking down to see if it's finally clear and not paying attention as to where the chain is pointed… fail! Loud machinery will impede the hearing of the whole crew, especially when the equipment is near the tree being removed. If you hate yelling, invest in Bluetooth communication.

Running Ropes (Rigging).

If you learn how-to run ropes… let me tell you something, you are GOLD! But it's more than just grabbing the rope and passing it through a friction management device. You must have some knowledge regarding tree species to succeed. But it’s just wood?! Yes and no. Different species; hardwoods, softwoods, fruit bearing trees, winter, summer -- all of this plays into how effectively the rope will run. Communicate with the climber prior to taking wraps, there are two different points of views here. Experienced ropers will look at the piece, ask the climber how big, and he'll have a general idea of how many wraps to take. In a perfect scenario you want to let that rope run and slowly pump the brakes, trying to dissipate that energy. As we all know, each job has challenges and yes, we have put ourselves in some “not so fun” scenarios. Point is, DON’T SHAKE THE CLIMBER! That will happen if you immediately lock the rope or if too many wraps have been taken. On the other hand, not enough wraps and your hands will burn or you’ll go flying through the air like Superman. TIPS for you: keep your rope organized! Do not let it cross with the climber’s rope and either keep it in a bag or neatly to the side. ALWAYS be aware of that rope and watch your footing.

Keep it clean.

Once you’ve gotten the ok to walk into the drop zone, start dragging brush. Don’t let it tangle up thinking you’re going to teach the climber a lesson; this will not only make it harder for you but also for everyone else on the crew.

NEVER walk back to the front of the yard empty handed! Do make a brush pile, with all the cut ends facing the same direction, that you can manage and stage it for chipping.

NEVER leave a running chipper unattended! Homeowners may come up and try to feed the chipper, this is a huge liability issue.


Ahh, everyone is either busy or allergic when it comes to raking the last bit of debris. Avoid making a huge pile of debris instead, make multiple piles of debris that will be easy to load onto a tarp. Don’t try to carry this finer debris by hand to the chipper. You are only making more work for yourself, leaving a trail like Peter Cottontail.

Down Time.

Down time, more like maintenance time. Don’t stand around with your hands in your pockets or a phone in your hand. Grease the equipment, learn how-to or just file the chainsaws, clean out the storage bins.

Show up on time! This will show your boss and crew that you are here and eager to work. Show interest in the job, ask reasonable questions; the crew will notice and begin training you. Remember we all started here and climbed our way up the ladder. We understand the struggles too. Be proactive, don’t wait to get told what to do. There are many other things one can do to be the world’s best groundie.

Previous article Are you ready for the Unexpected? | Aerial Rescue
Next article Help, I’m Stuck!: A Basic Guide For Carabiner Care.

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields