Tools for the trees

Kit suppliers in the UK are importing new ideas to improve safety and comfort.

Arboriculture is a high-risk profession and arborists are always on the lookout for new and better pieces of kit — from ropes and pulleys to climbing spurs — to help improve levels of safety.
Last year, managing director Martyn Honey of Honey Brothers in Surrey visited TCI Expo in the US, looking for new kit to offer UK arborists. The show is organised by the UK-based Tree Care Industry Association, which has over 2,000 commercial tree care firms as members.
Honey says: “The visit enabled me to see how arboricultural practice is developing in the US and research the latest products for inclusion in our range.”
The visit resulted in several new items being added to the Honey Brothers catalogue, including the Bee-Line friction cord. Described by manufacturer Yale Cordage as “the first arborist accessory cord to incorporate a heat-sink fibre”, the key characteristic of Bee-Line is its high melting point — more than 300?F higher than traditional polyester rope. “This, together with its high strength, makes it ideal for use as a friction hitch — often a Prusik knot or Blake hitch, used by climbers to move up and down a climbing rope,” explains Honey.
Bee-Line is available in two diameters: 8mm with 3,600kg tensile strength; and 9.3m with 3,400kg tensile strength. The construction is a 12-strand core with a tough sleeve of blended Technora and polyester. Honey Brothers supplies the cord both in pre-spliced lengths and cut to order.
A second initiative from Yale is more tightly spliced eyes to prevent slipping on the karabiner. “This is something we have been after in the UK for some time,” says Honey. “It’s important to ensure a karabiner is kept in correct alignment and loaded along its spine when in use. Tighter eyes will help that.”
Added to Honey Brothers’ “hot list” of products this year, and also sourced at TCI Expo, is the Advanced Ropeclimbing Technology high-tech cambium saver, or friction saver, called Rope Guide 2006.
Unlike conventional systems, it puts a pulley through the loop of the friction saver, allowing frictionless ascent and descent. But what really excited Honey was the integrated and patented shock absorber. “This was the first time I had seen anything being used with a shock absorber and we were keen to try it over here,” says Honey.
In the form of a tear-off seam, the shock absorber is designed to reduce the impact force to less than 6kN in the case of a vertical free fall. Rope Guide 2006 carries a permanent working load of 4kN and, when used correctly, has a reported minimum breaking strength of 24kN. “It is easy to loosen, even after heavy loads, and can be removed from every position,” says Honey.
New pulleys have also found their way from Rock Exotica to the Honey Brothers’ catalogue. The quick-to-attach, high-strength swivelling rope blocks have a smooth ball-bearing action to eliminate twisting from rope rigging systems. Two new versions with swing cheeks are also in the catalogue.
Other introductions include the partitioned Bashlin rucksack-style rope, described by Honey as “a good size but very comfortable”, and Gecko Climbing Spurs. The latter, designed by Ulrick Distel, of Distel knot fame, are made from lightweight aluminium and feature an easy-to-sharpen gaff design. Two styles are now supplied by Honey Brothers.
Also searching the world for new tree-climbing products, Proclimber of Carmarthenshire now sells Austrian Duo harnesses, Samson lowering ropes and Gecko climbing spurs. Proclimber claims to be the first to offer in-house splicing to its customers and also makes its own slings for lowering.

Carrying work kit
Climbers have to carry work kit safely. For many years, the belt has been a popular place to fix scabbards containing hand saws. Others attach it to their harness and some climbers use insulation tape to strap the scabbard to their leg. But there is now another way: the Sawpod pruning-saw leg strap.
It was developed by Tony Darbyshire, arb trainer and assessor for NPTC and Lantra. Worn on the calf of either leg, the Sawpod fits most pruning saws and makes the saw easily accessible in the tree and on the ground. It has cut-resistant neoprene cushioning and elasticated Velcro straps to hold it in place and secure the scabbard at the same time.
“We chose neoprene as the padding as it is versatile, provides cushioning for comfort, has the flexibility to fit all shapes and sizes and has the cut-proof fabric on the outside, so it stands up to the job,” says Darbyshire. The list of stockists is growing and now includes major arb kit suppliers such as Trees Unlimited in Leeds, Essex-based Stanton Hope, ProClimber in Wales, Lister Wilder and Honey Brothers.
At this year’s Arb Trade Fair, heldn 23-24 June at Bathurst Estate in Gloucestershire, Safety Technology of Monmouth showed a preview of the TreeFlex arborist harness as part of its forthcoming ErgoLite range.
Sales development manager Ben Williams explains why the company took a fresh look at harness design: “Arborists have to sit, stand, twist and lean in a harness more than any other professionals working at height. The TreeFlex is designed to support the climber in an efficient seated, twisted and standing position without the muscular/skeletal restrictions some harnesses impose.”
The harness is worn across the hip, rather than underneath the ribs, so the forces travel along the pelvic curve, rather than into the ribs. It’s height adjustable, so you can adjust your centre of gravity and prevent the harness from riding up and crushing your internal organs. There is extra padding down the spine of the centre back pad. This is to fill in the curve of your sacrum — the padding goes right into the back and gives full support there. The leg pads and back pad are made of Hexafoam,  which is used by American football players. Its honeycomb shape means each cell can move with the harness as your body moves, preventing the harness from creasing and providing good circulation for the body to prevent heat rash. It’s also impervious to oil and water.
Final adjustments to sizing and gear attachments should see the new harness ready for release at the APF Show in Warwickshire this September, where it is expect to be priced around £185.
Several arb suppliers, including Fletcher Stewart (Stockport) and Proclimber, now stock Stretch-Air clothing. This includes full-stretch climbing chainsaw trousers and Extreme chainsaw trousers for ground work. Both carry the KWF German safety standard.
Exclusive to Cheltenham firm Severnside Safety Supplies is ArbLite lightweight clothing for chainsaw users. Using materials such as Kevlar, the clothing is said to be a third lighter than most similar PPE. The range includes trousers and bib-and-brace styles.
As well as having suitable protective clothing, safety is about using the right tools. A new bar from Stihl has been
designed to reach those difficult parts.
In 10in (£55) and 12in (£57) versions, the Carving Guide Bar (£15.30) can be fitted with the new 0.25in Rapid Micro saw chains (£16.39).
The tip of the bar measures 21mm and is said to be ideal for cutting very tight bends accurately. The main characteristics of the bar include low kickback properties and manoeuvrability where there are tight radii.

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