Heed the X, Y and Z

There are old arborists and bold arborists, but there are no old, bold arborists.

There is certainly something to the arborist dictum above, I am not sure who to credit it to, should you know, send me the answer on a postcard. But actually, thinking about this today, I realised that I would like to suggest that we expand it, so that then it would go something like this…

There are old arborists and bold arborists, but there are no old, bold arborists. Oh yes and spatial awareness is also helpful in becoming an old arborist. 

Yes, yes, I know it does not roll off the tongue very well, but you get the gist of it.

But, you say, why spatial awareness?

Well, I believe that knowing where you – and the bits and bobs attached to you – are in space at any given point in time is essential to being safe and efficient when working at height.

Want an example ? This sense helps you…

  • to know where your lanyard is while you are making the cut,
  • to know where your hands are in relation to your hand saw,
  • to be aware of where safety-critical components of your PPE are whilst handling sharp power tools,
  • to know where you are in relation to where your anchor point is before you make that swing so as to be able to judge how hard and fast it is going to be,
  • to anticipate the movement of the section of stem you are lifting with the rigging system and where you are positioned in relation to it,
  • to correctly judge the centre of gravity of a limb you are attaching with a balancer,
  • to position the crane hook correctly above the limb prior to a pick.
  • and to efficiently envisage a sequence of movements through a canopy.

And so the list goes on.

All of the above relies upon having spatial awareness.  This sense helps you to visualise where you are, to make sense of the space around you and to judge depth and distance.

I actually do not think that this is either something you are born with – or not. Well, maybe to a degree, but it is certainly something you can train: You could make a game of playfully guessing how the swing is going to unfold or the lump of wood is going to lift of the cut, to then check whether your guesstimate correlates with how the situation actually played out.

But above all else, you need to be diligent, focused and pay attention to what is going on around you.

Let’s pay attention to the x, y and z!