Roots to Shoots Tree Surgeons in Alcester & surrounding villages

This advice has been put together by Mike and the boys, because over the years, those who went before you thought they knew it all already. Everyone wants to be a climber, BUT remember to be a good climber you’ve got to have been a GREAT grounds man. To be a good climber you HAVE to listen to instructions. If you don’t listen, I guarantee you’ll be down out that tree a heck of a lot faster than you climbed up it! This advice, yes ADVICE, to make YOUR job more enjoyable, is for all the newbie’s, trainee arborists, future professionals, rookies and greenhorns, read and you will learn, well maybe you will eventually?!


When you show up for work, make sure you’re on time, well rested, and not hung-over from catching up with an old mate the night before. Save getting pissed for the weekend when work will not be affected. Be reliable. If you cannot make it in to work, call as soon as you possibly can. Don't leave your firm shorthanded without some advance notice. Pack a lunch and be prepared for work. Maintain good personal hygiene - you’re going to sweat, so use deodorant. If you have a medical condition such as "Asthma", make sure you've got your inhaler and your boss knows about it. Eat a good breakfast; don’t rely on stopping at a shop! Bring what you need with you for the day and remember it could rain.

NEVER ask for an advance in wages. Learn to budget your money. Do not expect your employer to help you out every week. Make sure you have enough fuel in your car to get home, as well as in to work. If you don't, be sure to have some money to pay for any fuel you may need, as not all bosses will be kind enough to lend you a tenner! REMEMBER, if YOU break it, YOU will pay for it. Just because your boss pays for the kit, does not give you the right to abuse the equipment. If you don't like the sound of that, you're in the wrong job, go home and consider your future as a hairdresser or something.

You must have RELIABLE transportation to work every day. Ten minutes, twenty minutes late each day won't do, you've got to be a good timekeeper. If you can't be bothered, there are plenty more guys and girls who CAN be bothered!
Be keen, ask “So what are we doing today”, “What’s on”,  “What kit do we need”? Before you get in the truck walk around it and check it for anything that doesn’t look right. Make sure all the equipment that is required for the days work is on the vehicle. If you aren’t sure then ask! Ensure that all ladders, pole saws, and power pruners are tied down. Double- check all connections and the electrics for towed equipment. Make sure the fuel cans are loaded, full properly mixed and the chain oil is full. Ensure there is an up-to-date first-aid kit and everybody knows its location. Pay attention to where you are going - you might be required to remember it later. Keep current maps in the work pack and know how to use them. Ensure that all signing/guarding equipment is available. Whenever possible, have a charged mobile phone for emergencies.

Fuel and oil all the saws so when you get to site, that’s one job ticked off the list to start with. You can concentrate on where the signs are going to be put while the boss is chatting to the client as opposed to fumbling about with the saws. Make sure you know which end you fill oil & which end you fill fuel. Clean the air filters before leaving the yard. Make sure the chains are sharp! The vice on the work bench is a lot easier to file a chain in than a chog of wood on site! Never send a saw up to a climber without it having been checked and warmed up. Ensure the chain has the proper tension. Make sure the chain is sharp.  Make sure the side case nut or nuts are tight! Learn how to file a chain, and be able to replace a chain in a timely manner. Do not put the chain on backwards and then send the saw up to the climber, then wonder why the climber is shouting at you and hurling the saw back down to you. DOUBLE check. Then check again. Learn the attachment knots; they are quick and VERY important when sending things up to the climber. If the climber is waiting half an hour whilst you’re fumbling a knot, expect to be shouted at! Take a piece of rope home and practice tying knots!


Be KEEN, alert, willing to help and learn. Don't be one of those "It’s not my job" type of workers. Superior team members are able to work at any position.  That is how you will be if you listen and learn now! Assess the situation and determine a work plan. Keep a POSITIVE, motivated work ethic. NEVER be negative, regardless of how big a job is. If it’s raining,  sure you’ll get wet, the quicker you rake up, the quicker we can all get home, drag your feet , expect to get a bollocking, if you cry, it’s time to grow up and take some responsibility for your actions. Wear all the required PPE at all times. Make sure that if you’ve taken you hi-viz home, you BRING it back in to work the next day, otherwise expect to get a bollocking and not be able to work. It gets issued for a reason, to keep YOU and everybody else SAFE at work. Don't whine and complain about every little thing. Hustle when you move; walk one way and run the other. Do whatever you can do to expedite the completion of the job in a safe and timely manner. Learn how to operate a power pruner and a pole saw. Use the latter to pull out hangers. When cutting with these tools, use care to make a proper cut. If you need help, ASK, before making a costly mistake.

Always have a spotter when backing up a vehicle. If someone runs over, or into, something because you are daydreaming, guess whose fault it really is? Beware of eaves and wires, and watch for unseen septic tanks, obstructions and hazards. If you can’t see the mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Make sure YOU stand to one side and direct the truck back. LEARN the PROPER hand signals and USE them. Before arriving at the jobsite, discuss with the drivers the best placement of your vehicles. Call the client before the team arrives so that they can move their vehicles. When working on a roadside, be sure to properly position traffic cones and all signs. Stay on guard; do not cause an accident; and watch for careless drivers.

Never leave equipment anywhere it can be damaged. Set the kit next to another tree, a building, or the tool box and LOCK it. REMEMBER where you place your equipment down. It’s best to keep it all in one place. If you're in a place where things can be stolen, keep an eye on it at all times. Lock the vehicle's toolbox. Never leave a toolbox open. Store the climbing kits away from the saws & fuel. Make sure that all saws have scabbards and the climbing bags are CLOSED. If they get full of sawdust and wood chip, YOU can clear them out at the end of the day! Use your loaf!

Report any damaged or malfunctioning gear to your boss as soon as you discover it. Treat the equipment as if it were your own. Just because it’s not, does not give you the right to abuse it. The fewer expenses a business incurs (more often than not) translates into more money for you in the long run. Realize this, if YOU break it, it will come out of YOUR pocket.


NEVER push brash into the feed chute of the chipper with your hands or feet, use some type of brash paddle, or branch instead. Do not use a rake or fork. NEVER use a metal bar. An experienced arborist should work shoulder-to-shoulder with a new worker ensuring the proper training in all aspects of safe, efficient chipper operation. You should attend a LANTRA day course in safe use of chippers. You should learn to do minor maintenance as well as emergency procedures, such as un-clogging a chipper chute, or better yet, how to NEVER CLOG it up in the first place. When chipping stringy or wet brash, pay attention to the chipper's progress doing it. Listen for the engine bogging down or the lack of chips being expelled from the chute. Don't let the chipper run flat out all day long. This is bad for the machine and pisses away expensive fuel. When a break in the chipping occurs, idle it down or shut it off completely. If you’re dragging brash from a long distance to the chipper, stack a pile of branches behind the hopper, THEN start chipping, when you’ve chipped up a stack, idle the machine down, then switch it off and start the process again.  Aim the chute to fill one side of the bed of the truck, then the other, then the middle. Make sure the chute is aimed so flying chips AREN’T sent into traffic, over the truck cab or anywhere they shouldn't be! DO NOT LET DIESEL ENGINES RUN OUT OF FUEL. Don't chip rakings that may contain rocks or wire. RESPECT the chipper  AND the blades.


You should be able to handle all aspects of ground rope operation, from securing the friction hitch, to setting-up the lowering kit. If you hank the ropes, learn how to do it correctly. Do not step on the ropes, drag them on the ground or allow them to be driven over by a vehicle. Do not just throw the rope on the ground, tie it to the climber's line, and walk away. Take the time to un-hank the rope and tie the CORRECT end to the line. Do not JUST stand there and hold the rope. Step back and make sure the line goes up the tree unhindered watching for snags. After the climber has untied the rope, ask if he or she wants ANTHING else. At the very least, learn how to tie a bowline, sheet bend and a clove hitch. Take a short piece of scrap rope home and PRACTICE. Always keep the climber's rope in the corner of your eye. Look for tangles, and snags. Don't jerk on the rope and throw the climber off-balance. Do not pull out a hanger if the climber is still on the limb. Knots are used extensively in this business. You will be expected to learn more as you gain experience.


In the event of an emergency, get the first-aid kit immediately. Call 999 if needed, and know your location AS stated on the RISK ASSESSMENT, hence the whole paying attention and ASKING and KNOWING, where you are working!


If you notice everyone around you is working and you're not, you're doing something wrong. Be active, don’t drag your feet. Look around and ask yourself, "What can I do to complete this job?" “What can I be doing” If you really need instruction about that, ask your boss. Be friendly and courteous with the client and your fellow crewmembers. Be motivated and a self-starter. Set the pace for others to follow. Impress the customer! Dress and act professionally. You are representing the company that pays your wages. When your clothes wear out, stop wearing them. Do not wear trainers. You need a helmet, gloves and sturdy chainsaw boots for groundwork.


Learn how to communicate with your TEAM members without always having to hear. Use hand signals, lip reading, and simple common sense. Learn how to 'read' the situation-at-hand, and react accordingly.
Be respectful of the customer's property. Treat the customer's lawn, landscaping, and ornamental items with TLC. Leave the property cleaner than when you arrived. Don't throw cigarette butts on the ground. Be respectful when talking around them. No swearing.

Keep all tools and gear in their proper place, and ensure that everyone knows what- goes-where. If you take a tool, make sure it gets returned. Before leaving the job-site, take the time to count your saws and other gear, and make sure everything is back on the truck in its proper place. Keep the truck doors closed and the windows rolled up. Pay attention to incoming bad weather. When you see those RAIN clouds are approaching, the wind picking up, start rounding up and stashing the kit BEFORE the Heavens open!

Always put the fuel & oil caps on tight. Learn how to operate the new Stihl caps. Put the fuel in the fuel tank and the oil in the oil tank, don't mix them up. Fuel up the saws in an appropriate place, don't kill the grass or stain the patio. Use a tarpaulin.
Listen to the climber and follow the direction given. If you are not clear on something, do not proceed until you have a clear understanding. If you have to shut down the chipper and remove your earmuffs to hear, then do it. This problem can be minimized if you first have a pre-climb talk with the climber. Plan your work, and then work your plan.

Always be in command of the kill zone. The climber cannot do this. IT IS UP TO YOU. No one is to enter this area. Always keep your eye on the climber when you enter the kill zone. Listen for tell tale sounds. When necessary, cone and tape off the area, or use barriers. Move whatever you must to prevent damage from the tree work operations.

Clear the drag path before you start dragging. Move anything that might be damaged by the brash. Don't leave any gear in the kill zone or the drag path. Do not try to drag a large limb through a narrow gate, trim it to fit.


When raking, start at the outermost perimeter, and work in an ever-diminishing circle toward the chipper. Do not make 'little piles' of brush or rakings... employ advanced raking techniques. Don't bend over and pick up small debris with your hands. Use a rake. Do not bust the rake handle; either use your boots to advance larger piles toward the chipper, or place the brush on a tarp. Don't leave rakes lying on the ground to be stepped on. Prop them up against something. Do not rake an area under a roof that still has to be blown off. Strive to rake only once AND BLOW OVER ONCE. When stacking brash make the stack as high as possible before you start to make it wider. The neater you stack it; the easier it will be to deal with later. Face the butts the same direction. When dragging brash, never drag just one limb, unless it’s a big one. Find a cradle limb, neatly stack the brush on top, and drag that. Take advantage of the cradle limb for rakings as well. Learn how to operate a blower in an efficient manner, and know when to use it. If you use wheelbarrows, know when to use them and also know when to leave them on the truck.


You should be an expert in safe chainsaw operation and in snedding procedures. Use both hands to hold the saw and be alert for kickback hazards. Keep the saw out of the dirt. Learn how to file, and perform minor, in-the-field repair on your equipment. Do not operate a blunt saw. Get it sharpened. Be familiar with using wedges and breaking bars. Limb the tree from the trunk forward before you cut the log. Whenever possible, cut the limbs flush with the trunk. Don't leave stubs. Don't cut the limbs that are holding up the limb until the brash is removed from underneath it. Before you make the cut that will shift the log, ensure it is safe to do so. Place smaller lengths of logs under the trunk to aid in cutting it. Do not pinch the saw. Learn the mechanics of compression and tension, and how to react to them.
When sending a saw up to climbers set the saw on the ground and grab a generous amount of rope. Do not use the tail unless asked to do so. Pass the bight through the rear handle (the one with the trigger), and tie two simple overhand knots, leaving at least 6 inches of tail hanging. Never tie the climber's rope to the wrap-around handle or the chain brake. The idea is to keep the saw as vertical as possible to eliminate hang-ups. Don't walk away until the climber has the saw/rope untied, and keep the ropes close to the base of the tree.


When roping, maintain constant visual contact with the climber and the limb being roped. Anytime you are under the climber, you are in the kill zone. Stay clear of the bite and swing of the roped limb. Listen to the climber's DIRECTION whether to let it run, hold tight, or work it for a hinge. Look at what the climber is doing and react accordingly. Do not make a wrap around anything except the tree the climber is in, unless otherwise asked to do so. If you have a friction device, USE it. Do not wrap the rope around your body or hand. Learn to judge limb weight and how many, if any, wraps to apply. Wear gloves whenever you are roping anything. When the climber asks to “Let it run”, do not take too many wraps when you do it. This is an extremely important point as to the climber's safety, as well as your own.

When using a pulley, be aware that the friction is much different. You will need an additional wrap on the friction device. Additionally, the lowering rope can slide up and slip out of the pulley in a second. After QUICKLY untying the roped limb, keep the rope in your hand, or secure it to something until the climber asks for it. At the very least, tie a stopper knot on the end. Observe the climber, and determine if he or she needs the rope back immediately. If not, resume ground duties, while also maintaining visual and/or aural contact. If the climber does need the rope, position yourself directly under the climber. Snap the rope in a straight line and let go. DO NOT whirl it in a circle.
As smoothly as possible, get the roped limb to the ground quickly, and without burning the rope.

Do not hold it and let it swing unless told to do so. Unless instructed to do otherwise, always let the rope down a few feet to help the hinge work and not hit the climber on the return swing. Learn how to work the hinge and DO NOT STRIKE the climber with the limb. Watch for eaves, wires or landscaping. Face the butt towards the drag path. In a two person ground crew, the chainsaw operator IS NOT responsible for untying the rope. Use tag lines or pole saws to guide the limb to the ground. Keep the kill zone clear of debris, especially when DROPPING down chogs. If the climber is not allowing you to keep up, he or she needs to be told to take a “HOLD ON FOR A SEC”. Conversely, do not make the climber wait unnecessarily on the ground crew. WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM AT ALL TIMES.

As you progress in the industry of Arboriculture, you will be required to have  a basic understanding of tree anatomy, bio-mechanics and identification. This may be accomplished through on-the-job training, along with additional reading and various seminars available. Companies that also do landscaping will require a basic knowledge of proper pruning, planting and fertilization, along with the ability to use the tools required.


Hopefully you will have found this information useful and will take these points stated within as GOOD, SOUND advice from guys and girls who have been in the industry for many years.

Our Team

Mike Hamilton

Forever the innovator, with massive drive & determination to stay at the forefront of tree management practices and the latest equipment available.

Baz Onslow

Enthusiastic, hard working, calm, collected and constantly learning. Loves the ongoing training courses, the arb magazines, latest new kit, climbing & meeting wonderful clients!

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