Tree Worker How to Use Spurs to Climb Removal Trees

A monthly resource for the professional arborist
January 2008
Number 305
How to Use Spurs to
Climb Removal Trees
What’s this tree?
Hint: little fruits are acorns
See page 6.
Use spurs/spikes/irons only to climb removal
trees. Aerial rescue is another possible time,
but we’re talking about newbies on spurs, and
newbies on spurs shouldn’t be doing an aerial
Before climbing the tree, make a pre-climb
inspection of the work site. Look for any
potential hazards to yourself or your crew.
Since you’re new at this, have a supervisor
show you what to look for. Things like rot,
structural defects in the tree, mushrooms or
other fruiting bodies on the trunk, cracks or
cavities in the tree, etc. Be on the lookout for
hangers, dead branches, stinging insects, and
Make sure you put them on right. There is a
right shoe and a left shoe, and the first time
(yes you’ll get them mixed up at least once
before you figure them out) you get them on
backwards will be the time the entire crew will
see you and never let you live it down.
How to Use
Spurs to Climb
Removal Trees
Get some decent high-top leather boots with a
solid heel. Spend a little money because
there’s nothing worse while you’re in irons
than the heel of your cheapie boots coming
off the sole and falling on your groundie. Don’t
wear athletic shoes or flip-flops. Actually, go
ahead and try them. You’ll find out in a hurry
why you need solid-soled boots.
Tips for a New
Crew Leader
Install your climbing rope and attach yourself
to it.
Check the spurs for wear and tear. Make sure
none of the straps have cuts or worn spots.
We’ll talk about how the straps can get cut
later. Check the gaffs to make sure they are
secure on the irons.
In This
Some pointers (ha!) on climbing with
spurs/spikes/irons for the first few times.
Make sure your supervisor sets you up with an
escape plan in the unlikely event of a close
encounter with the fauna (critters, bees, etc.)
on the flora. Have a plan for the entire job
from start to finish.
Put the spurs on while standing at the base of
the tree. The minute you try walking any distance, no matter how short, in sharp irons,
you will stab yourself in the calf enough times
to realize that you made an error in judgment
about where to put them on. This is also a
good way to cut or pierce the straps, which
could be a very bad thing at 50 feet off the
ground. When you walk across that parking
...continued on page 2
Hung-up Tree Removal
OSHA Files
Arborist Quiz
Mr. Safety
This technique works for certain
situations and poses risk, which
can be managed. I use this technique most often when I have to
remove a tree that has broken
off the stump and is hung up. It
is used in situations where you
can’t just fell the tree away from
the trees it is hung up in.
The specific case was a dead
spruce tree that leaned over an
expensive fence toward a house.
There were adjacent trees that
could be worked from, but we
A notch was set up facing the
felt it was less risky to pull the
direction of the lean, just below
tree away from the lean. In this
the pull line.
by Tim Walsh, CTSP
case we set a rigging line (red
and white) through the trees
behind the dead one, using a 5to-1 mechanical advantage to lift
it. The system was anchored to a
The working end of the line ran
through the top of the dead tree
down the back side and was tied
off with a running bowline a few
feet off of the ground. I like to
pull this way when there is a risk
of the tree failing so we would be
pulling with the entire length of
the tree. (see photo on page 5)
...continued on page 5
Page 2
The TreeWorker
January 2008
...Continued from page 1
lot, it dulls the gaffs, too. You simply
shouldn’t walk in them, except maybe
short distances on turf.
Attach your flipline/lanyard/safety line
around the tree and clip in. Stick the
spurs in the trunk (one at a time…no
bunny hopping onto the tree), but not
directly on the sides. Think about 8
and 4 on a clock face (more or less),
especially on larger diameter tree. Try
not to “cling” with your toes. Get the
feel for standing on the spikes without
your toes or ankles touching the tree
so you have the correct entry angle. If
the entry angle of the gaffs are off as
you climb, they will likely kick out, and
you get to slide down the tree until your
climbing rope stops you. This is always
felt most by elbows and knees. Lean
your weight into the lanyard when you
want to stand on the spikes.
As an iron newbie, take a few moments
while you’re less than 10 feet off the
ground to feel what it’s like to stand on
spurs on the tree. It’s wobbly and kind
of painful in your feet until they get
used to it. The smaller the tree
diameter (the farther up you go) the
more you have to pay attention to each
“grab” you make. Standing on a 4-inch
stem at height can be very disconcerting. Practice a little at lower altitudes
before you try to take the tall skinny
upright branches off.
Step up on the spur, keep your upper
body a little away from the trunk (don’t
hug the tree), and keep your butt in
line with your upper body. If the gaff
kicks out, your sticking angle is off. Ask
your supervisor to watch you and to tell
you how to correct this. Make sure you
do this under supervision the first few
times. Someone has to report to the
crew how clumsy you look so you all
have something to laugh about when
you get really good at it.
Don’t stab each gaff into the tree
multiple times like you’re trying to kill
cockroaches. With the right gaffs, a
firm step is all that is needed.
Take a couple of steps, move your
flipline up, then lean into the lanyard.
Take your time. If your boss is yelling at
you to hurry up, glare down at him and
think of a few tasteless names to call
him at a later date. As you ascend, and
the trunk becomes teenier in diameter,
shorten the flipline to keep your torso
the right distance from the trunk. Too
close is bad as you will likely kick out.
Your natural inclination as a climber is
to try to place your feet in branch forks.
Avoid this when wearing spikes
because you can get stuck or slip. This
is a good way to pierce your climbing
rope, your lanyard, your foot – all these
things are best left un-pierced. Trust
standing in the gaffs instead.
Get to where you need to be, tie into
your climbing line, then relax into your
lanyard as you notice “sewing machine
leg” take over your lower appendages.
Practice, practice, practice, and soon
you’ll be shimmying up trees like the
monkey’s uncle you are.
January 2008
The TreeWorker
Excerpted from the TCIA Home Study Crew Leader Manual 3
Characteristics of Great Crew Leaders
It’s important to lead by example. Since you
work as part of a crew and have responsibilities, what you do often has more effect
than what you say. It’s very important to set
a positive example. If you say that everyone
is to be punctual and ready to work at the
appointed time, they will look at you to see
if you are on time. If you don’t support
management when they ask for things to
be done, you can’t expect the crew to support you when you want things to be done.
Your actions speak louder than words.
What do your actions communicate to the
crew? Do they communicate commitment
to the job, a high level of quality, concern
for customers and concern for employees?
No amount of communication will make up
for setting a bad example. You are setting
an example at all times and in all ways.
Great Crew Leaders, as with managers in
all businesses, come from different backgrounds and have different levels of expertise. However, they have some common
characteristics. While a top-performer may
not have every one of these characteristics,
the better performers have most of them.
A great Crew Leader:
Develops each crew member’s capabilities –
Great Crew Leaders realize that the crew
Page 3
is only as strong as its weakest link. While
they may have a new crew member or
ground worker, they work to develop them.
Training doesn’t stop at just how to be a
ground worker. Crew leaders don’t just
develop new people, they continuously
develop everyone.
Delegates or assigns additional duties –
We discussed this one in the December
TreeWorker. The great Crew Leaders
assign duties to allow each crew member
to improve their competence in additional
areas. Once a person gets good at one
task, a Crew Leader can move them to
another task, allowing them to learn more
about the business and increase their
Rewards positive behavior –
What gets rewarded gets repeated. A crew
leader who gets the best out of his/her
people is one who takes the time to
notice the crew members doing something right and to compliment them. Even
if they’re not doing the entire job right, the
Crew Leader combines praise for the part
they’re doing right with assistance and
correction for the part that needs
Sets high expectations –
The expectations of the Crew Leader
...Continued on page 6
Page 4
The TreeWorker
January 2008
Safety Strategies Success
Guidelines for the Safety Professional
We would like to congratulate Crystal
Kappen, CTSP and Jason Kappen, CTSP
for a milestone achieved at their company: 16 years without a lost time accident
in a company that presently employs 110!
As a matter of fact, Kappen Tree Service
of Cass City, Michigan, recently received
the Michigan OSHA Consultation,
Education and Training Division (MIOSHACET) Gold Award for its outstanding safety
and health record. The MIOSHA program
is part of the Michigan Department of
Labor & Economic Growth (DLEG).
MIOSHA recognizes the safety and health
achievements of Michigan employers and
employees through CET Awards, which
are based on excellent safety and health
performance. The CET Gold Award recognizes an outstanding safety record of one
hundred thousand to two million continuous hours worked without days away from
work, based on the employer’s size and
type of business. According to Jason, the
criterion applied to Kappen Tree Service
was two hundred fifty thousand hours
without a lost-time accident.
The Kappens credit their outstanding
safety record which was attributed to
several areas, including significant
employer commitment, an active safety
and health committee, job safety analysis
(JSA) to identify hazards, regular safety
and health training, and a dedication to
changing their safety culture. Jason
related that TCIA Accreditation together
with their CTSP experience helped them
organize and prioritize their overall safety
Shortly after becoming accredited,
Kappen invited a CET Safety Consultant
to perform a hazard survey at the
company, which is a part of the award
process. They passed this audit with
flying colors.
Congratulations Kappen Tree
CTSP Workshops
coming in 2008...
July 24 & 25
St. Louis, Missouri
August 20 & 21
San Jose, California
November 11 & 12
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Also, check out our
Web site for more enrollment
and early bird deadline details
at or
e-mail [email protected] or
[email protected]
Page 5
The TreeWorker
January 2008
Nursery SkidFILES Tree
Steer Operator Killed
Occupational Safety & Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
OREGON, 2004 - A 24-year-old nursery worker
was killed on March 25 while operating a skidsteer loader. The operator had been moving
carts containing seedling trees from an outside
location to inside a greenhouse. He was using
the skid-steer loader for several hours before
he was noticed missing. The operator was discovered in a seated position in the operator’s
cage of the skid steer with a severe head
injury. His left arm was behind him as if to support himself while leaning forward.
It was raining on the day of the fatality, and
despite the availability of rain gear, the operator had placed his coat tightly across his lap to
prevent his pants from getting wet. A pocket of
the coat had caught on the skid-steer’s operational hand controls. The controls were probably activated as the victim leaned forward,
causing the skid steer to move suddenly. The
jolt apparently caused his head to forcefully
strike the left-front roll bar.
The operator may have been in an awkward
position for the sudden jolt, because he was
either leaning forward out of his seat to secure
the load from inside the cab, or was preparing
to exit the skid-steer without shutting off the
A few additional details from the OR-OSHA
investigation point to the second explanation.
The operator had just returned from a break,
and the greenhouse door was shut when he
approached with a new load. The weather was
very rainy and windy. He may have decided to
jump out quickly to open the door without
shutting off the power. The operator may have
started to exit the loader, without turning off
the power, but when he moved, the coat caught
the still-active controls and the machine jolted
forward as he exited his seat. No one
witnessed the actual events.
The victim was pronounced dead at the scene
from traumatic injury to the brain.
The nursery foreman reportedly had experienced this same sudden movement himself
while operating the skid steer in the past, and
had also struck his head against the frame but
without injury.
Do not operate equipment with loose clothing,
a tool belt, or other items that could interfere
with or entangle the operator controls.
Never exit or lean out of the protective operator’s cage of mobile machinery without first
shutting down and turning off the power
Maintain the machine in safe operating
Employers should consider a formal training
process for operators of mobile machinery,
including written documentation, and regular
evaluation and feedback
Hung Up Tree Removal
After pulling the tree back to near vertical, a
hinge was set up that would direct the tree
back into the trees behind it. The dead tree
could not be pulled through the trees, so the
plan was modified. The mechanical advantage system was taken off, the tree was still
anchored so it couldn’t fall back toward the
fence, so the tree could be lowered using the
The butt of the tree was pulled off of the
stump, parallel with the fence causing the
tree to lean to the right (if you were looking
at it with you back to the fence. A pull line
(blue) was attached to the stem, a few feet
from the base. A notch was set up facing the
direction of the lean, just below the pull line.
(see diagram)
The tree was pulled backward using the blue
line causing both the top and butt pieces to
...Continued from page 1
come together allowing the top to be lowered to the ground parallel to the fence. The
lowering line was still attached to insure that
the tree could not fall in the wrong direction.
This system is safe as the tree is secured
from falling the wrong direction and minimizes the amount of time the workers have
to spend underneath the tree.
Editor’s note: the basics of this advanced
tree removal scenario can be found in the
Ground Operations Specialist Manual of the
Tree Care Academy and in the Safe Tree
Felling Pocket Guide, both from TCIA.
I like to pull this way when there is a risk of the tree
falling so we would be pulling with the entire
length of the tree.
Do not operate
with loose
clothing, a tool
belt, or other
items that
could interfere
with or
entangle the
Page 6
January 2008
The TreeWorker
What Tree Is This?...continued from page 1
Quercus virginiana - live oak
Weight in lbs per ft3 = 76
Common names of Quercus virginiana in different parts of the country are: live oak,
Virginia oak, southern live oak, sand live
oak, scrub live oak, or Texas live oak.
1400 year-old Angel Oak, located in
Johns Island, South Carolina. Photo
taken by J. Allen Brack.
Depending on the growing conditions, live
oaks vary from shrubby to large and spreading: typical open-grown trees reach 50 feet
(15 meters) in height, but may span nearly
160 feet (50 meters). Their lower limbs often
sweep down toward the ground before curving up again. They can grow at severe
angles, and Native Americans used to bend
saplings over so that they would grow at
extreme angles, to serve as trail markers.
They drop their leaves, and grow new ones,
within a few weeks in spring. The bark is fur-
rowed longitudinally, and the acorns are
small, but long and tapered. Live oaks frequently have rounded clumps of ball moss or
thick drapings of Spanish moss, and mistletoe is often found on them.
Live oak wood is hard, heavy and difficult to
work, but very strong. In the days of wooden
ships, live oaks were the preferred source of
the framework timbers of the ship, using the
natural trunk and branch angles for their
strength. Southern live oak is long-lived.
Trees in excess of 500 years were once common, and one, the Angel Oak on Johns
Island, South Carolina, is estimated at 1400
years of age; it is 20 m tall, 2.47 m diameter, and with a maximum spread (longest
branch) of 27 m; the crown covers an area
of 1,580 m2. It is threatened by nearby
Crew Leader...continued from page 3
affect the expectations of the crew. A
Crew Leader who has high expectations
tends to pass that trait on to crew members. As a result of the high expectations,
the crew members tend to live up to
Addresses performance problems –
Great Crew Leaders and managers are
not satisfied with crew members simply
not making mistakes. They strive to elevate each person’s level of performance
consistently. If a person is not performing
up to their potential or to the level expected of a person in that position, they will
quickly address the issue.
Doesn’t play favorites –
While crew members can’t be treated the
same, they can be treated fairly and
objectively. The minute a leader begins to
show favoritism, it becomes difficult to
get top performance out of everyone.
Great Crew Leaders are not only objective, they make sure there is not even the
perception of favoritism. They explain the
reasons for decisions so they’re understood.
Is friendly but not too familiar –
A great Crew Leader is friendly and
approachable, but does not let friendship
compromise judgment or actions and
affect the crew’s productivity or quality of
work. The Crew Leader understands there
is a line that should not be crossed. This
is especially difficult in small crews and
when the Crew Leader and crew members may be about the same age and
seniority within the company.
Demonstrates integrity –
Employees need to trust their Crew
Leader. Your integrity and honesty will
determine their level of trust and confidence. Those who can be counted on to
do the right thing will creat loyalty and
commitment. Those who make decisions
for themselves at the expense of the crew
will find trust and confidence disappearing.
Follows policy and procedures –
The effective Crew Leader sets examples
by following policy and procedures, especially those involving the safety and wellbeing of the crew. Nothing erodes respect
and trust like having a double standard,
expecting more from others than you
expect from yourself.
Is candid and honest in communication –
Especially in regard to performance feedback or personnel decisions, it’s critical to
be candid and honest. Top Crew Leaders
and managers separate the employee
from their actions and performance and
give positive, constructive critique to correct performance and problems.
As a Crew Leader, you will be guiding and
directing the work of crew members each
day. The skills and attitudes you use will
make or break the crew. As the crew goes,
so goes the success and profits of the
company. It’s important that you learn the
leadership and management skills
required for being effective and use them
2. Which is the best answer? A great
Crew Leader:
a. sets high expectations
b. sets a climbing rope
c. sets the clock on the truck radio
d. sets his lit cigarette next to the
fuel cans
3. MIOSHA recognizes the safety and
health achievements of Michigan
employers and employees through
CET awards that are:
a. given to any company with proof
of workers’ comp insurance.
b. based on the employer’s incentive
c. regulated by TCIA
d. based on excellent safety and
health performance
4. Which is a false statement about
the safe operation of a skid steer
a. Loose clothing can interfere with
operator controls.
b. Employers should consider formal
training processes including feedback and written documentation.
c. An operator is allowed to lean out
of the protective cage while the
machine is operation ONLY if the
hand brake is set.
d. Maintain the machine in safe
operating condition.
2- a
3- d
4- c
1. Which item is NOT important to
remember when using climbing
a. Make sure you put them on the
correct feet.
b. Have your supervisor watch you
for the first few times.
c. Have a broadfile close by to
sharpen the gaffs.
d. Avoid placing your feet in branch
January 2008
The TreeWorker
Mr. Safety by Bryan Kotwica
Page 7
Page 8
3 Perimeter Road, Unit 1
Manchester, NH 03103
ISSN 1529-4854 ©2008
Editor - Tchukki Andersen,
Staff Arborist, ASCA
Contributing Writers
Peter Gerstenberger
Tim Walsh, CTSP
Graphic Design/Layout - Kathleen Costello
All materials contained herein are for the information
of The TreeWorker subscribers. UNAUTHORIZED
PERMISSION IS NOT PERMITTED. Pictures, articles and
other data are in no way to be construed as an
endorsement of products, techniques or members.
The TreeWorker is published monthly by the
Tree Care Industry Association, Inc.
3 Perimeter Rd., Unit 1, Manchester, NH 03103
Call 1-800-733-2622 to order and
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Articles in The TreeWorker meet the American National
Standards Institute (ANSI) standard Z133.1 for safety
in arboricultural operation and the ANSI A300 series of
standards for tree care maintenance operations. These
standards are industry consensus standards that apply
only to readers in the United States of America.
The TreeWorker readers in countries other than the
United States of America are cautioned that your local
and/or national standards may or may not be similar
to ANSI standards. You are advised to research and
apply your local and/or national standards to all standard practices represented in The TreeWorker articles.
The TreeWorker
January 2008