Plant used in connection with tree lopping – crane access method position paper

Position paper

This paper is designed to provide information to people who conduct tree trimming and removal work using the crane access method in accordance with Clause 221 of the WHS Regulation

The crane access method is where a worker in a harness is suspended from a crane hook then lifted into the tree using the crane. In certain circumstances this may provide better overall safety than traditional methods of accessing trees.

It is Safe Work NSW position that the crane access method may be used provided the following conditions are met:

  • the method is only used in connection with tree work or training for tree work
  • a documented site-specific risk assessment shows the method does not create a greater risk than climbing the tree or using plant specifically designed to lift people (e.g. a work box or boom-type EWP)
  • the method is only used to access the tree, i.e. the worker connects to the tree then disconnects from the crane hook and conducts tree work in the usual manner. Once work is complete at the location they may, if required, reattach to the crane to be moved to another section of the tree, or to be removed from the tree
  • the crane does not travel (pick-and-carry) while the worker is suspended from the hook
  • the worker is  capable of immediate, direct communication with the crane operator (preferably radio), regardless of whether a spotter is utilised
  • all workers are suitably trained and competent in the use of their plant or equipment, and where required hold valid high risk work licences, including the suspended worker holding a high risk work dogging licence

Additionally, SafeWork NSW recommends:

  • the method is conducted in accordance with the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland publication:  Guide for tree trimming and removal work - crane access method (available at www.worksafe.qld.gov.au), with the following exceptions:
    • when attaching to the crane it is not necessary to avoid the use of mechanical friction devices, so long as the risk of the device snagging is considered and managed (i.e. it is not necessary to use a prussic loop as the means of connection), and
    • when attaching the worker to the tree the worker should not start tree trimming until they are attached to the tree by two means, however, it is not necessary that one of these be by climbing spurs. Climbing spurs should not be used unless removing the tree as they can damage the tree, creating an entry point for pathogens and further damage.
  • the method is conducted using slewing telescopic boom-type cranes, to minimise the risk of inadvertent crane motions and collision between the boom and tree branches
  • crane operators consult with controllers of premises, prior to the crane attending site, to discuss potential hazards, eg heavy vehicle access, sloping terrain, maximum ground bearing pressure, location of overhead power lines etc
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