Joe Harris commented on a post I wrote a while back on influence, how information is disseminated and what relevance we give it. I thought the points he made were too important not to share here as a follow-up to the original post…

On a recent workshop series, with a planned 208 attendees, we actually saw only 206. Two of the climbers who’d booked to come along had experienced career-ending injuries (luckily neither were killed) between booking and the date of the event. As you would know, arborists are not prone to booking well in advance, so we’re talking about a period of only a month or so. 

In addition, in the last few months, two other climbers that I know of have had career-ending injuries.

All four accidents were associated with complex SRT setups, new devices used in non-manufacturer approved configurations, working from basal anchors, or similar “new-fangled” and YouTube-promoted tree work methods. All four accidents would not have occurred with simple, “old-school” methods*. 

I never used to think that equipment was a major factor in most incidents. It’s usually shortcuts, laziness and sloppy decision making. But in recent years there has been an increase in injuries and deaths due to equipment misconfiguration, misuse, and misunderstanding. The rise of SRT for work positioning means that devices experience more load, ropes are under more tension, there is less margin of error, loads on high-points and redirects are misunderstood, and people are learning from YouTube influencers as you say in your post. 

We’ve had 6 fatalities in arboriculture so far this year in Australia. The highest per-capita fatality rate of any industry in Australia, for the 6th year running. Think somewhere we’re going wrong with the whole way we’re going about this work. 

Good post Mark. Take care,
Joe Harris

* 2 x climber cut anchor line on basal anchor, 1 x device prevented from engaging due to too-tight chest harness, 1 x device opened too far, operator gripped on and went to ground.