Aerial Rescue: Planning, Preparation, and Hazard Assessment

Tree work provides the chance to work outdoors, stay physically active, and provide a valuable service to the community. It also comes with certain risks. However, with correct planning and preparation, including understanding how to execute an aerial rescue if needed, makes for a safer work environment. 

Our first priority is to try to avoid ever needing an aerial rescue. Always follow all safety procedures and use the correct equipment for your best chance of keeping yourself and your coworkers safe. Still, the unexpected happens, so everyone should know how to perform an aerial rescue.

Preparing a Safe Work Environment

Preparation is the first and perhaps most important step toward a safe work environment. Review rescue plans and procedures during job briefings. Confirm that all equipment meets safety standards and talk through responses for worst case scenarios. 

When you arrive at a job, remove rescue equipment from the truck before starting work. Place the equipment in an accessible location. This should include a properly stocked first aid kit. Also keep emergency phone numbers on hand. 

Before beginning work, assess any potential risks as a team. Watch for electrical lines, weak limbs, and stinging insects or other wildlife. 


Everyone should be trained in how to use the first aid kit, emergency response and rescue procedures. Confirm the guidelines for what kind of training everyone needs and how often.

In addition, tree workers should learn how to recognize poisonous plants and stinging insects. Know which ones pose a threat and how to respond if someone comes in contact with them. Double check whether anyone on the crew has allergies to things like poison ivy or bees.

Performing a Rescue

A climber might require rescue for a number of reasons. For example, a falling limb could knock them unconscious, they could pass out from intense heat, or a stinging insect could cause a severe allergic reaction. 

With a co-worker trapped in a tree, your impulse may be to ascend the tree to get to them as quickly as possible, at all costs. Stop. First, ensure that you or the person climbing follows all safety protocols. If the person being rescued is wearing spikes, the rescuer should use caution to avoid them. 

Meanwhile, on the ground, one crew member should call 9-1-1 and remain on the line with the dispatcher. Another will maintain communication with the rescuer. 

The rescuer should attempt to quickly assess the nature and extent of the injuries and communicate these to the people on the ground. If the victim is not breathing, start rescue breathing immediately, before lowering them. 

If a victim becomes suspended upside-down, the rescuer should make every effort to turn them upright to avoid suspension trauma. When clear to descend, the rescuer will typically attach the victim to themselves and descend the tree in a controlled fashion.

Electrical Hazards

Electrical hazard represent the most dangerous potential threat during tree work. Your crew should assess the job site and identify all conductors before beginning work. Assume all wires, cables, and other conductors are “live.” Always maintain a safe distance--at least 10 feet--from any electrical conductor. Never work with your back to wires and always face them as you move into position.

Even when following these precautions, an accident can happen. For example, a branch might fall, contacting both the climber and an electrical conductor. If a rescuer cannot safely break electrical contact, wait for the system operator to de-energize and properly ground the line. Avoid touching an energized truck or equipment. 

Always keep contact information for the utility company close at hand and call them immediately. 

First Aid Procedures on the Ground

Once the person is safely on the ground, make sure they and everyone else is a safe distance from any energized electrical conductors. Follow all first aid procedures, including rescue breathing if needed, until paramedics arrive. If the victim is conscious and able to speak, learn as much as you can about what they are experiencing, including pain, confusion, loss of sight, or any other symptoms. Communicate all of this information with emergency personnel.

Review Aerial Rescue Procedures Regularly

When you review these rescue procedures and follow all safety precautions, you improve your chances of a successful, incident-free day. Assess hazards and review safety information on each and every job. Then, you can go home safely with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Posted: 2/27/2019 12:00:00 PM by Global Administrator