Beasts of burden

In today’s increasingly congested cities, thinking out of the box when it comes to moving goods around them ought to be a concern for all of us. We had fun the past few days working a site close to the yard, packing the climbing gear on our transport bikes, Surly’s Big Dummy and a Bullitt. Or, as I like to think of it, the pouletalthough that will only be funny if you are franophonic.

I find not spending hours sitting in traffic to be very liberating. When it comes to alternative transport concepts, in view of the ecological aspect of the work we do, I believe arborist companies ought to be part of a push towards a more sustainable future. Baby steps, you say? Yes, of course, but you have got to start somewhere… and without a doubt, the time is now!

The job was pruning an alignment of London plane trees for the city. In the freezing cold wind. Brrrr. Winter is totally over-rated, in my opinion. But that is another story.

Winter project

Winter brings specific side projects, mostly of in-door nature, with it. I have recently been working on re-illustrating all of the instruction manuals of Baumklettern Schweiz. I enjoy working on images like this as it makes me look at small details I often overlook otherwise, consider hand positions and how to communicate visually in a clear, uncluttered manner.

Training for emergencies

I am sorry, I realise the tone of this blog is a bit sombre at the moment. I am sure we will get back to the more light-hearted themes in due course, for the time being though, it is simply the way it is.

One thing which struck me thinking about it, is how when planning and practicing for emergencies we tend to focus on the mechanics of emergencies: assessing and mitigating risks, rescue techniques and tools, first aid skills etc. Obviously these are essential factors, which will have a significant impact on how a team is able to respond in case of an accident.

One thing we do not often talk about though is our reactions in such situations. Of course, one reason for this is that it is nigh on impossible to predict how you are going to be affected and what your exact response is going to be, as this depends up multiple factors – yet it is safe to assume that at one level or the other, there will inevitably be a response – and that this will affect your actions and your judgement.

I met up with a friend, let’s call him F.H., last week who had a very bad accident a couple of months ago. I was interested in hearing what he could remember of the immediate aftermath of the accident. He recounted how he has a clear recollection of lying on the ground, on his side, unable to move, realising that he was in a really bad condition. His work mate came rushing over, F.H. asked him to pull his mobile phone out of this pocket and give it to him. He then phoned his wife, told her he had had a really bad fall and that it was not looking good – and hung up. After that, things turned really hectic, paramedics and police turning up on site, he was rushed off to hospital and operated upon for hours…

In the meantime, his wife was sitting at home, unable to reach him or anybody else on site by phone, going absolutely frantic.

It would not even occur to me to be judgemental or critical of this reaction. I totally get what F.H. was doing when he made the call, what can be more understandable when you are really badly injured than to want to speak to the person you love to let him or her know what has happened. Yet in such a situation your body is working in overdrive, your judgment, whilst it may feel clear in the moment, may well be clouded and you actions far from rational. It might have made sense in this situation for F.H. to ask his work mate to make the call to his wife – and to keep her updated.

So maybe this is something one ought to be discussing as part of planning and training for emergencies: not just how to place the call to emergency services, but who else to get in touch with, how to make the call and who makes the call. Do we have access to the relevant numbers of next of kin, for instance?

Of course, this is not immediately relevant to the handling of the casualty, yet will certainly have a mitigating effect upon the collateral damage, upset and trauma caused by such an incident.


This is maybe blindingly obvious, but let me say it anyhow:

When writing about Florim’s accident it was never my intent to highlight his accident over others.

My reaction was very much of the instinctive, knee-jerk kind, it was clear to me from the get-go that being totally open and transparent about what had happened was the right response in this instance for this person – which Flo confirmed when we spoke about it prior to going public with the news. For someone else, naturally, a totally different response might have been necessary – this is after all not a matter of what is right or wrong, simply what is appropriate and helpful.

In the past year there have been four serious accidents in my more or less immediate professional surroundings, including one fatality. This hurts badly, making me very much aware of my own mortality, highlighting the stark truth how fragile a life can be, irreversibly changed in the blink of an eye.

Of course, things sometimes go wrong. This is further compiled by the fact that in arboriculture we work in an environment, at height and with machinery, where when things go wrong, they tend to go wrong badly – with serious consequences.

There is not such thing as a more or less important accident. Every single one is tragic and one too many.

Let us be diligent in how we do things, mindful of each other and respectful of the environments we work in and the tools we work with.

Our thoughts, love and support go out to all those affected by an accident, including their families, loved ones and friends.