Tree Surgery


All companies, no matter what size, must conform to The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) in order to carry out tree surgery. These requirements came into force on 5th December 1998. For the full legislation visit the HSE site.

All Equipment must be replaced after 5 years, no matter how little use that equipment may have had.

The requirements of LOLER apply to employers, the self-employed and people in control of or managing lifting operations. LOLER is aimed at ensuring all lifting operations are properly planned, lifting equipment is used in a safe manner and lifting equipment is thoroughly examined at suitable intervals by a competent person.

What is lifting equipment in arboriculture?

Any equipment which lifts or lowers loads, including any attachments used for anchoring, fixing or supporting it. The term 'load' includes a person. For example:

  • Rope access equipment, including anchor points
  • Ropes, karabiners, harnesses and strops
  • Rigging systems for lowering branches
  • Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs)
  • Cranes
  • Tree spades

Marking of lifting equipment

Information on the safe working load (SWL) of any machine used for lifting should be available to the operator. If applicable, lifting equipment should be marked to show it can be used to carry people. Mobile elevating work platforms or man-riding cages should display the SWL and the number of people they can carry. Where the SWL depends on the equipment’s configuration, the operator will need clearly visible information to keep both machine and loads within the safe working limits for any particular configuration.

Accessories should be marked with information needed for their safe use. The use of labels or colour coding is acceptable. Examples of this in arboriculture include:

  • Ropes, slings, karabiners, strops, and harnesses for rope access
  • Rigging system equipment, particularly to show it is not designed to carry people.

Organisation of lifting operations

Lifting operations should be properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner. It is important that:

  • People planning a lifting operation should have adequate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of planning similar lifting operations.
  • The work is organised so, where practicable, loads are not carried or suspended over people.
  • Where possible, people should not be present under loads that have been left suspended.
  • Workers have appropriate training and instructions so they can ensure lifting equipment is safe to use.

Thorough examination

LOLER requires lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined. Thorough examination means a detailed examination by a competent person who has appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience to enable them to detect defects or weaknesses in the equipment being examined and assess their importance in relation to the safety and continued use of the lifting equipment.

The risks in arboriculture which arise through failure in lifting equipment for lifting people justifies independent and impartial thorough examination. In practice, this probably means somebody external to your business. Your insurance company may require you to use an independent examining engineer. Your supplier or the manufacturer may also be able to suggest suitable people or organisations.

Lifting equipment in arboriculture is exposed to conditions which could cause deterioration and result in dangerous situations.

It should be thoroughly examined either every six months where it is being used for lifting people and every twelve months otherwise, or in accordance with time intervals specified in an examination scheme drawn up by a competent person.

Lifting equipment should also be thoroughly examined each time exceptional circumstances occur which jeopardise the safety of the equipment. For example, your rope should be thoroughly examined after it has been subject to a severe shock load.

Lifting equipment should be thoroughly examined after installation but ‘installation’ does not apply to the positioning or repositioning of rope access equipment.

When lifting equipment that is subject to thorough examination is contracted to be used in the business of another employer, then a copy of the equipment’s current thorough examination report should be made available.


Inspections of lifting equipment should be carried out at suitable intervals where your Risk Assessment, made under the MHSWR, has identified risks which could be addressed by inspection.
Arborists should be trained to carry out a daily pre-use check of their lifting equipment and, in the case of items subject to high levels of wear and tear (ie. ropes), a written weekly record of inspection should be kept.

Reports and defects

A person making a thorough examination for an employer should notify defects and make a report of the examination. The competent person should notify the employer immediately of any defect which, in their opinion, is or could become a danger to people. They should also send a copy of the report to HSE if they consider there is an imminent risk of serious personal injury.

If you are notified of a defect you should ensure the lifting equipment is not used before the defect is rectified or it is rectified within the time specified in the report. If during an inspection a defect is discovered which could become a danger to people, the employer should be informed and a report of the inspection made.


Copies of EC declarations of conformity for any lifting equipment should be kept for as long as the equipment remains in use. Information contained in any thorough examination report should be kept available for inspection.

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