"Golf courses tend to have one or two members of staff who are trained in tree work - if a tree comes down it is useful to be able to have someone on hand to deal with it quickly"
There are, of course, plenty of experienced arborists available to provide contract services to course managers - the Arborists Association can provide a list of members at www.trees.org.uk - but it may be more efficient to undertake routine maintenance in house.
However, it is not just a matter of any greenkeeper or groundsman picking up a chainsaw. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires that any person who uses or supervises the use of work equipment has had adequate training. In particular, the Approved Code of Practice accompanying the Regulations requires anyone working with chainsaws to hold a Certificate of Competence award or national competence award relevant to the work they undertake.
For professional chainsaw operators working in forestry and arboriculture, the adequacy of training for all chainsaw operations, including aerial tree work, needs to be confirmed by an independent assessment, leading to the award of an accredited NPTC Certificate of Competence in the relevant unit or units.
Core NPTC qualifications are CS30.1 'Maintenance of the Chainsaw' and CS30.2 'On-site preparation and basic cross cutting', which can be completed in one or two days depending on the candidate's experience. Felling qualifications can then be added on, along with additional training and certificates for tree climbing and arboricultural work, if required.
Chainsaw operators working outside forestry and arboriculture at a basic level (occasional users) can attend an Integrated Training and Assessment (ITA) course leading to a Lantra Awards Certificate of Basic Training. This applies to the operations of chainsaw maintenance, basic cross-cutting and felling material up to 200mm diameter. This will be recognised as meeting the requirements of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
However, occasional users wishing to fell material over 200mm diameter must hold the relevant NPTC Certificate of Competence.
Under PUWER, chainsaw operators are required to attend a refresher course every five years, if in the professional category, and every three years if in the occasional category.
Due to the high risk nature of arboriculture, training is usually provided by colleges or specialist training centres and delivered by trainers who are industry/technical specialists.
Qualifications are also available for operating stump grinders and wood chippers, which can be useful on the golf course or sports ground.
Hartpury College offers the NVQ level 2 in Greenkeeping and NVQ Level 3 in Golf Course Supervision, and chainsaw courses, from the Lantra basic training certificate up to aerial rescue and tree climbing, are optional modules within the two year modern apprenticeship course. They can also be taken as add-ons for qualified greenkeepers, with discounts offered to mature students.
"Spraying courses are probably the most popular, but we can offer training and certification for tree work," explains trainer/consultant Chris Pickles. "The training would be appropriate for work on a golf course, as it includes aspects such as setting up a safe zone to protect golfers and other bystanders."
Gosta Training is a learning centre used which specialises in training for greenkeepers and the landscape industries. Managing director Lesley Lowrie comments: "Golf courses tend to have one or two members of staff who are trained in tree work - if a tree comes down it is useful to be able to have someone on hand to deal with it quickly. The level of training depends on individual courses, but most only want to deal with timber up to 200mm diameter, so the Lantra Awards certificate of basic training is usually adequate; a contractor is called in for more demanding work."
However, Lesley adds that greenkeepers who work for a local authority, or other large landowner, may find it useful to take the full NPTC certificates of competence.
"Chainsaw training is certainly becoming more popular, and we are now running courses throughout the year to cater for demand," she says.
Whilst the course content is detailed on the Lantra website, the right trainer can tailor the information to the student, suggests Lesley, so that the skills learned are appropriate to a golf course, rather than a forestry situation. "It does depend on who delivers the training; we are lucky that our trainer is very good!" she says.
Lantra Awards is the training organisation providing a UK-wide register of training providers and instructors, offering training across all aspects of tree work. Registered training providers may be colleges, training organisations, companies or individual instructors. www.lantra-awards.co.uk
NPTC is the awarding body, accredited by the UK regulatory authorities, offering assessment for Certificates of Competence across all aspects of tree work and other landbased skills. www.nptc.org.uk
The PPE at Work Regulations 1992 require that personal protective equipment is supplied and used at work wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways. Employers are required to provide PPE free of charge to their staff.
The Regulations also require that PPE:
• is properly assessed before use to ensure it is suitable
• is maintained and stored properly
• is provided with instructions on how to use it safely
• is used correctly by employees
The following PPE should be used for tree work:
• Safety helmet (complying with EN 397)
• Eye protection (mesh visor complying with EN 1731 or safety glasses to EN 166)
• Hearing protection (complying with EN 352)
• Gloves. The type of glove will depend on a risk assessment of the task and the machine. Consider the need for protection from cuts from the chainsaw, thorny material and cold/wet conditions. Where chainsaw gloves are required, these should comply with EN 381-7
• Leg protection incorporating chain-clogging material (complying with EN 381-5)
• Protective boots with good grip and protective guarding at front vamp and instep (complying with BS EN 20345)
• Non-snag outer clothing. The use of high-visibility clothing may also be appropriate
• Each person should carry a personal first-aid kit including a large wound dressing
• Hand-cleaning material such as waterless skin cleanser or soap, water and paper towels should be readily available
HAVS (Hand-arm vibration syndrome)
Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted from work processes into workers' hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as chainsaws, so is an issue when carrying out tree work on the golf course, which is likely to take place over a concentrated period in the winter. Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent health effects. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular part of a person's job.
Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions, collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms include tingling and numbness in the fingers, loss of sensation, loss of strength in the hands, the fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery.
Employers are required to assess vibration risks to workers to check if their job brings them to the exposure action value (EAV), a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action to control exposure - for hand-arm vibration the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5m/s2 A(8).
The exposure limit value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration the ELV is a daily exposure of 5m/s2 A(8). It represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed.
Vibration data for particular machines, such as chainsaws, can be obtained from the manufacturer's handbook or from the HSE. Employers can use this, and online tools available from the HSE or the services of a specialist consultant, to determine whether an employee is at risk.
Preventative action includes steps limiting the amount of time spent using a particular machine, selecting machinery which has lower vibration ratings, and ensuring machinery is well maintained, eg that chainsaw teeth are sharpened regularly (following the manufacturer's recommendations) to maintain the machine's efficiency and to reduce the time it takes to complete the work. www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/index.htm
Pitchcare is also a Lantra Awards Registered Training Provider.
We have strong links with our associate Pitchcare Training Partners and work with a network of other Training Providers throughout the UK to offer a wide range of arboricultural training, including Basic Tree Survey and Inspection and Professional Tree Inspection courses. This means that we can often source local courses for our individual members, which can greatly reduce travel time and time "off the job".
For minimum groups of four we are usually able to arrange training on your site, delivered by a registered Lantra Awards instructor, providing you have suitable woodland areas. It may therefore be worth approaching neighbouring golf courses, sports associations, parish councils etc. to see if they have staff who could join with you.
The most popular Chainsaw modules for our members include:
- CS30 Chainsaw Maintenance and Basic Crosscutting
- CS31 Fell and Process Small Trees 200mm-380mm
- CS32 Fell and process medium trees 380mm-760mm
- CS38 Climb trees and perform aerial rescue
- CS39 Use of chainsaw from rope and harness
- CS40 Carry out pruning operations
- CS41 Carry out dismantling operations
- CS47 Use of a chainsaw from a MEWP
- CS48 Powered pole pruners
We can also provide training on Stump Grinders, Brushcutters, Brushwood Chippers and other arboricultural equipment.
For further information on general chainsaw training and qualification, I suggest you follow this link to the Health and Safety Executive's website http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/internalops/sectors/ag_food/1_04_02.pdf
If you are interested in any of these courses for yourself or your staff, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golf course case studies
Tyrrells Wood, Surrey
The parkland setting of Tyrrells Wood Golf Course in Surrey is resplendent with mature trees and Course Manager, Billy MacMillan, has the services of three chainsaw-trained greenkeepers and a trusted contractor to keep them looking their best.
"We deal with windblown or fallen timber ourselves and undertake pruning up to head height. Anything else is down to our contractor, with whom we have worked for eight years, so he knows the course well," he explains. "I tend to accumulate tree work jobs to bring the contractor in for a full day."
A major clearance operation adjacent to the public highway, which runs through the course, required the skills of a specialist arborist plus a traffic management crew, as Billy explains: "We were asked by the local authority to remove 28 trees, most of which were mature beech some 95ft tall, so the road had to be closed between 9.00am and 3.00pm. The work required some complex planning, as we also had to zone the course, close certain holes, cordon off the work site and set up temporary playing facilities to protect the golfers."
Several of the members have formed an arboreal group to take care of replanting, with the emphasis on indigenous species.
"Some of the stock comes from the existing woodland, with whips transplanted out onto the course, while we have also hired in a tree spade or used a 360 excavator to provide larger rootballed trees. We are keen on succession - the course has a number of majestic trees, and if they are lost it would have a significant impact on the landscape, so we need to have replacements ready."
There is, of course, one downside to this many trees. Billy reckons that his team spend three and a half months clearing leaves in the autumn. But, continuing the green approach, the debris is composted and then spread in the woodland.
Belton Woods, Lincolnshire
As a relatively new course, Belton Woods in Lincolnshire features mainly newly planted trees, for which minimal maintenance is required. Head Greenkeeper, Angus McLeod, comments that many older trees within the country club grounds have tree preservation orders on them, requiring negotiation with the local authority before any work is done on them.
"I employ greenkeepers with LANTRA tree work qualifications. We have done a lot of planting, and have recently changed the management regime to move away from strimming under the trees, developing a richer environment and enhancing their health."
Angus previously worked at Newport Golf Course, part of a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and with 60 acres of woodland at its heart, and has used his experiences to help in his new position.
"Newport has lots of ancient hedgerows and protected trees, some of which form strategic aspects of the course layout. Work included raising crowns to allow golfers to play underneath, and I also used contractors to pollard trees which had been affected by fungi. It was a costly process - £800 per day when £2000 would have covered felling, but it enabled us to save important trees," he explains.
Angus suggests that it is important to develop a good relationship with the local authority tree officer. "Get the tree officer on board with what you are doing, and they are less likely to object when you do have to take a tree down. I'd like to pollard some of the old oaks at Belton Woods, and am working with the tree officer to progress this. In addition, the tree officer tends to stay on site when we have arboricultural contractors in, and offers more cost effective advice and help than using a consultant."
Another new project involving the contractor is the development of a new rock climbing area for the country club, which will necessitate the planting of a number of new trees, which will also come under Angus's remit.