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Workwear & PPE for Arborists


Working at height presents a unique collection of hazards. Falls, breaks and snags are increasingly dangerous when the individual at hand does not have solid footing on the ground. And, for this reason, the requirements of PPE or Personal Protective Equipment is very specific in this instance. The items you wear on an everyday basis need to provide suitable protection for yourself and those around you. They need to be of high quality, maintained to a high standard and used on every single climb. In this guide, you will find information on the workwear and PPE requirements for arborists and those working at height.

What are the legal requirements?

All of the workwear you use needs to be CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Regulations 2002. It dictates the responsibilities of workers and employees when it comes to PPE. This regulation dictates that, where the existing risks cannot be controlled or reduced in another manner, PPE should be correctly identified and used. The main points under this legislation are:

  • PPE must be worn and used according to the instructions provided.
  • PPE should be returned to dedicated storage space unless the employee is authorised to take them away from the workplace.
  • PPE should be visually examined for damage or wear before use.
  • Any defects or loss of PPE must be reported immediately to line managers and provisions taken.
  • If there is a need for PPE items, employers must provide them free of charge to all workers.

Personal Protective Equipment is there to minimise the risk of injuries and accidents. It should be appointed in accordance with a full risk assessment. It is important that employers understand where risks and hazards present themselves on a work site. Using this information, procedures should be implemented to minimise these risks - of which PPE is one type. It is worth noting that the PPE Regulations 2002 is overall legislation. There are many other regulations that we will discuss later that have specific requirements for hazards such as asbestos, noise and ionising radiation.

What PPE do I need as an arborist or individual who works at height?

When ascending, descending or working on aerial tree projects, all users should wear:

  • A mountaineering-style arborist helmet that is compliant with BS EN 12492.
  • Eye protection that is compliant with either BS EN 1731 and BS En 166.
  • Hearing protection that is compliant with BS EN 352.
  • Chainsaw gloves that are appropriate for the task at hand.
  • Chainsaw or Brushcutter Trousers for leg protection and groin protection that is compliant with BS EN 381-5. (Please note, Type C leg protection is suggested for aerial work. However, it’s not always the most practical option. Where appropriate, Type A can be used too).
  • Protective footwear offering good grip and protective guarding at the front that is compliant with BS EN ISO 20345.

There are also additional requirements if you are working at height with a chainsaw. These include:

  • Chainsaw-specific boots that are compliant with BS EN ISO 17249.
  • Chainsaw gaiters providing additional protection on calves that are compliant with BS EN 381-9.

What current legislation covers PPE for arborists?

As you can see above, there are a number of legislations that cover PPE for aerial work. Below, we will provide a short overview of each one to give you a clearer understanding.

BS EN 12492 - Helmets for mountaineers

This legislation covers mountaineering helmets and ensures they can offer sufficient levels of impact/shock absorption, penetration protection and retention. More information about this legislation is available at this link.

BS EN 1731

This legislation requires face and eye protection to protect against flying debris that is caused by a chainsaw as well as other hazards presented by trees.

BS EN 166

This is the core technical industrial safety requirement here in Europe for eyewear. It ensures that eyewear protects from hazards likely to damage the eye with the exception of nuclear radiation, x-rays, lasers and infrared. IT is the minimum standard required for PPE.

BS EN 352

This legislation requires hearing protection to satisfy the basic requirements of European legislation. Points within this legislation specify that the headwear should not put too much force on a users head but should protect against the damaging impact of loud noises.

BS EN 381-5

This legislation covers leg protection including chainsaw protective clothing of both Type A and Type B used in forestry work. It asks that leg protection cover each leg at least 180-degrees and 5cm to the interior part of the legs.

BS EN ISO 20345

This is the standard of which ‘safety footwear’ are tested. It should be able to withstand impact protection up to 200 joules and compression protection of 15,000 newtons. They also need to be slip-resistant and fully waterproof.

Working with chainsaws

It’s important to consider the specific hazards raised by the use of chainsaws when talking about PPE. These potentially dangerous machines can cause fatal or major injuries if misused. Anyone who uses a chainsaw should be properly trained and fully competent to complete the job at hand using a chainsaw. As with any hazardous work-related activity, it is important that you:

  • Control the risk by taking out a detailed risk assessment. This should identify potential hazards and suggest sensible and proportionate measures to control them.
  • Consult your employees. Everybody who works within your company should be involved in the maintenance of health and safety. Ensure all workers are actively spotting risks, ensuring the h&s practices in place are sufficient and are dedicated to maintaining a commitment to them.
  • Review your health and safety practices regularly to ensure they are still suitable.

More information on this can be found in the Health and Safety Executive ‘Chainsaws at work’ leaflet. There is also additional information available on the HSE’s website.

If you’re looking for Safety Workwear and PPE that conforms with the relevant legislation noted above, visit the Sorbus International website. Alternatively, get in contact with the team here today who are experts in both the forestry and arborist industries.

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