Putting safety first

Experienced tree worker, Vusumzi Mthanga, properly equipped with all the required personal protective equipment and safety gear required for the execution of aerial chainsaw work.

Bolander reported on a serious safety infraction (“Chainsaw violations”, Bolander, May 16) by a team of chainsaw operators, which took place on Main Road, Somerset West on the afternoon of Wednesday May 9.

Two men, observed cutting down plane trees on the median at the intersection of Main Road, Andries Pretorius Street and Bizweni Avenue, were wearing no visible personal protective equipment, were climbing trees without safety harnesses and ropes, and one of the men was not wearing shoes. This happened in full view of what appeared to be two supervisors observing the operation.

Bolander emailed photographs of these infractions to the City of Cape Town on the afternoon of Wednesday May 9, and received the following response from City spokesperson, Priya Reddy, a week later on Tuesday May 15: “The City would like to state upfront that the workers depicted in the pictures are not City employees but rather employees of a sub-contractor of our main roads’ contractor. The matter was reported to the health and safety agent. The sub-contractor has subsequently been removed from  the site and will not partake in further work on the site until they can provide the necessary safety equipment and work method as per the City’s health and safety regulations.”

This is, however, not the first time that Bolander has reported on such safety infractions by sub-contractors (“Trees: tempers flare”, Bolander, May 27 2015, “More questions than answers”, Bolander, June 10 2015).

In addition, Bolander reported on August 12 2015, (“Trees trimmed”) that the City “had adopted a tree management policy for the City’s entire urban forest, and the appointment of a trained and qualified arborist to administer that policy, is under way” but to date there is no indication that this has been done.

Somerset West arborist, Fred Lewis, who commented professionally on the Bolander’s photograph of the health and safety infractions observed on May 9, supplied a photograph showing how a tree worker should be kitted out before attempting chainsaw work.

“The tree worker must be wearing steel toe-cap safety boots, chainsaw protective pants, high visibilty shirt, and helmet with ear and eye protection to execute chainsaw work on the ground,” Mr Lewis said. “In addition, a tree worker engaging in aerial chainsaw work, must also be equipped with a safety harness, climbing rope, climbing lanyard (strop), helmet with chin strap and carabiners for attaching climbing ropes to the harness.”