Unsafe tree pruning practices continue


Despite a comprehensive demonstration last year, of tree pruning practices and techniques using the required safety equipment by a local tree expert, unsafe practices are still happening in the Helderberg Basin.

Somerset West arborist Fred Lewis came upon a team of City of Cape Town horticultural staff pruning trees in Mountain Road, Somerset West, on Monday April 18, and saw that they were not using the required safety equipment.

Mr Lewis forwarded photographs of the unsafe practices to Bolander.

“The reason this annoys me so, is that I am repeatedly asked to provide information and advice on the use of correct tree pruning safety equipment and practices and it is routinely ignored,” he said.

Mr Lewis was instrumental in highlighting the use of poor pruning practices and disregard for health and safety standards during the pruning of the avenue of eucalyptus trees on Parel Vallei Road last year, by a City of Cape Town contractor (“Trees: tempers flare”, Bolander, May 27 2016 and “Parel Vallei trees: more questions than answers,” June 10.)

At a meeting with City officials Chantal Michaels, director, City Parks; Kobus Verwey, head, technical and general support, community services, City Parks; and Sipum-elele Mbusi, superintendent community services, City Parks; on Monday May 25 last year to discuss the matter, Mr Lewis offered to do a demonstration pruning free of charge for City staff, so they could observe the correct techniques for accessing the trees safely, use of required safety equipment, and also the correct approach to tree pruning.

Mr Lewis deployed his entire crew last year in August at the entrance to Parel Vallei High School to do the demonstration pruning (“Trees pruned,” Bolander, August 12 2015), which was observed by a team of City of Cape Town horticultural staff, lead by City Parks community services superintendent, Mr Mbusi, as well as a member of the contractor appointed to do the pruning work for the City.

Turning to the unsafe practices he observed in Mountain Road, Mr Lewis explained. “In one instance, a pole pruner is used (a chainsaw on a pole), which results in dust coming directly into the operators eyes, not to mention the cut log possibly falling onto his unprotected head.

“In the other instance, the chainsaw operator is wearing no eye, ear, head or leg protection, and is cutting dangerously close to a colleague’s legs. The rest of the crew should at the very least, be wearing ear protection.”

Bolander forwarded Mr Lewis’ photographs to the City of Cape Town for comment, and received the following response from Mayoral committee member for community services and special projects, Belinda Walker: “We would like to thank those who have brought this matter to our attention.

“It is indeed of great concern that the photos show that no personal protective clothing and equipment was worn by the staff on this day, placing the team at risk and exposure to hazards.

“It is very important that City staff follow all necessary safety procedures in carrying out their work and this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

“An internal disciplinary process and investigation will be pursued to remind the staff to always comply with health and safety standards.

“We are in the final phase of the recruitment process to appointment the arborist.”

“I fail to understand why, after a comprehensive demonstration, such infractions of health and safety regulations continue to occur,” said Mr Lewis. “At the May 25 meeting, Mr Verwey told us that the City had embarked on the recruitment of a qualified arborist to manage the City’s urban forest.

“It is disappointing that 11 months have passed, and the arborist has yet to be appointed.

“If that appointment had been made, I doubt such infractions of health and safety regulations would continue to occur.”