What Protective Clothing Do You Need for Aerial Tree Work?

March 09, 2023

Just starting out as an arborist or simply want to make sure you have all the gear you need to stay safe and comfortable on the job? We’re here to help.

As with most careers involving physical work, it’s essential that arborists wear relevant items of PPE and clothing to ensure their safety – and, of course, comfort. Safety and comfort largely do go hand-in-hand: the more comfortable you are, the easier it’ll be for you to focus on what you’re doing.

So, which items should you invest in? We’ve reviewed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on PPE and applied our knowledge of the industry to create this handy guide. Let’s dive in.

Helmet, eye and hearing protection

In any job that involves the use of a chainsaw, head, eye and ear protection is a given. There’s definitely not a case for taking any chances when you’re high up in a tree armed with a powerful cutting implement, after all!

To maximise safety, the HSE recommends a mountaineering-style helmet that complies with BS EN 12492. This offers more impact protection than a forestry helmet to EN397, which typically would be worn by a chainsaw user working only from ground level. Eye protection should meet either BS EN 1731 or BS EN 166, while hearing protection should be BS EN 352 compliant.

Suitable gloves

This is one area where comfort and safety need carefully balancing up. When selecting gloves, it’s important to first consider whether you require chainsaw protective gloves, or just general work gloves. Chainsaw gloves offer additional cut protection, but this is arguably counterbalanced by additional bulk and reduced dexterity. 

A normal work type glove will often be a closer, more dextrous fit and easier to operate in but will not offer any relevant protection against a moving chain. It is a decision you’ll need to make based on your risk assessment and any requirements of your employer or trainer.

Leg protection

Chainsaw trousers (or in some cases, chainsaw ‘chaps’ or leggings) to BS EN 381-5 should always be worn for any chainsaw work, no matter how quick or simple the job. More specifically, the Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group (AFAG) suggests type C leg protection (protection to front and back of the leg), as it provides a more comprehensive barrier against chainsaw cuts. This is particularly relevant for arborists due to the inherently increased risk of using a chainsaw whilst suspended in a tree.

This may not absolutely always be the right solution for all climbers, though. Type C protection is bulky and hotter to wear and can cause additional heat fatigue in the summer. Subject to your risk assessment and any requirements of your employer or the entity for whom you are contracting, type A protection may be worn if deemed appropriate.

Suitable outerwear

Your trousers and jacket should be made from a non-snag material, and it’s wise to choose hi-vis items for additional visibility – and in some cases this will be specified in the contract of work. Make sure you consider breathability and water resistance – if you can, choose a product that boasts a class 4 rating in both departments.

Protective boots

Once again, an essential item of PPE for all chainsaw users. Your boots should meet BS EN ISO 20345. Its important to be aware that a chainsaw protective boot does not have protective material around all parts of the boot: it offers protection against chainsaw cuts on the vamp (the top front of the shoe) and the instep (the area just below where the laces begin). A chunky, grippy sole is a good feature for arborist boots, too, giving you grip and support when standing on a branch.

Get your hi-vis forestry clothing online today

At Harkie, our range of clothing has been designed specifically for arborists. Having attained the highest possible standard for both breathability and water resistance (class 4), our Rainblok fabric used in all our outerwear offers the best of both worlds. Both hi-vis and regular materials are available in a wide variety of sizes, allowing you to get comfortable easily.

From forestry smocks to hi-vis trousers, we have all the outerwear you need to get comfortable and stay dry. Explore our full range of arborist clothing and order yours online today.