As an industry, we, collectively, agree that more time should be dedicated to aerial-rescue training, especially scenarios involving tree climbers. But how much time is dedicated to emergency situations involving an arborist aloft in an aerial-lift bucket or platform? Here are a couple of options that could be incorporated into an aerial-lift training session for rescuing an injured arborist aloft.
Case 1: Rescue for a conscious, injured arborist aloft
An arborist aloft is using a sharp hand saw to remove small branches. The saw slips during a cut and inadvertently cuts the arborist’s forearm. The wound is deep and renders the arborist disabled, but conscious. He alerts the workers on the ground that he is injured, and they will need to activate the lower controls to lower him to the ground.
One worker operates the aerial lift while the other worker prepares the first-aid kit and puts on the supplied nitrile gloves. Gloves are required to protect the first-aid provider from blood-borne pathogens.
The worker assigned to lower the boom first checks to see that the situation is still safe enough to operate the lift. The boom worker then alerts the injured worker that he or she is taking control and provides assurance that help is on the way. The bucket is lowered to ground level in a smooth, efficient motion to prevent further injury.
Once the bucket is on the ground, the other worker begins the assessment of the injured worker still in the bucket. The victim should not be moved unless necessary.
An attending worker should obtain the sterile dressing from the first-aid kit. A sterile dressing should be used to prevent introduction of bacteria. If a sterile dressing is not available, direct pressure should be administered using the cleanest dressing available.
Placing the sterile dressing over the wound, the attending worker should apply direct pressure to the wound. He or she should elevate the arm, if practical, and continue holding pressure on the wound until bleeding slows or stops, or until more advanced measures are taken, i.e., applying a tourniquet, accessing an arterial pressure point or handing over care to EMS technicians.
If the wound bleeds through the dressing, the attending worker should add more dressing on top, but should not remove the original dressing. He or she should then bandage the wound with the original dressing in place.
Case 2: Rescue for an injured, unconscious arborist aloft
The arborist aloft gets hit on the head by a branch and is rendered unconscious.
A worker on the ground operates the lower controls to bring the victim down.
The worker on the ground should assess the injured worker while they are still in the bucket. If there is a reason to move the victim, for example, CPR is needed, it should be done quickly and efficiently.
The rescuer should unclip the victim’s harness and clear any obstructions from the site.
If the bucket is equipped to tilt, the rescuer should carefully tilt it to the ground without causing further injury to the victim, getting assistance, if available.
If the bucket is not equipped to tilt, the rescuer(s) should pull the victim’s arms over the lip of the bucket opposite the side where the boom is attached. They then should detach the victim’s lanyard from the boom and lift or pull the victim over the edge of the bucket by grasping him or her under the arms or by the belt.
The victim should be placed in a safe and appropriate position to render first aid; the rescuer should begin necessary first-aid procedures and call emergency services.
Practicing aerial-lift rescue scenarios should be a regular part of your crew-training program. Of course, while it is extremely important to be prepared in an emergency, it is even more important to take steps to prevent the accident.
Tchukki Andersen, CTSP and Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA), is staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association.
TCI Magazine acknowledges and greatly appreciates the support of Cranes101, a 10-year TCIA corporate member company based in Bellingham, Massachusetts, and Stanley Tree Service, Inc., an accredited, 32-year TCIA member company based in Smithfield, Rhode Island, in the creation of this educational article and the accompanying video.