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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 16. Labor And Employment
Agency 25. Safety And Health Codes Board
Chapter 73. Regulation Applicable to Tree Trimming Operations

16VAC25-73-90. Work procedures.

A. Ropes and arborist climbing equipment.

1. A visual hazard assessment, including a root collar inspection, shall be performed prior to climbing, entering, or performing any work in a tree, and an ongoing hazard assessment shall be conducted as operations progress while the arborist is in the tree. If the hazard assessment reveals a serious hazard to the climber or ground personnel, work shall immediately stop and personnel shall be removed from the hazardous area until a work plan is developed to safety remove the hazard/tree. The following items, at a minimum, shall be inspected:

a. Trunk and root hazards including, but not limited to, cracks, cavities, wood decay/rot, cut roots, mushrooms;

b. Lower stem hazards including, but not limited to, loose bark, open cavities, cracks, mushrooms, conks, and depressions or swelling in the stem;

c. Limb hazards including, but not limited to, watersprouts, hangers, cankers, dead branches, lightning damage, and weak crotches; and

d. Storm damage hazards including, but not limited to, cracked stems and crotches, broken limbs supported by cables, points of pressure, and tension on limbs or small trees underneath larger fallen trees.

2. A second arborist or other worker trained in emergency procedures shall be within visual or voice communication during arboricultural operations above 12 feet (3.65 m) that are not subject to the requirements of 16VAC25-73-50 B 4.

3. Climbing lines used in a split-tail system and split-tails shall be terminated with an eye splice or a knot that interfaces appropriately with the connecting link that it is attached to. The termination knot selected shall remain secure under normal loading and unloading. When using a carabiner without a captive eye, the knot or eye splice shall cinch in place to prevent accidental opening and/or side-loading of the carabiner.

4. Arborists shall inspect climbing lines, worklines, lanyards, and other climbing equipment for damage, cuts, abrasion, and/or deterioration before each use and shall remove them from service if signs of excessive wear or damage are found. The items removed from service shall be tagged until repaired or discarded.

5. Arborist saddles and lanyards used for work positioning shall be identified by the manufacturer as suitable for tree climbing.

6. Arborist saddles and lanyards used for work positioning shall not be altered in a manner that would compromise the integrity of the equipment.

7. Hardware used in the manufacture of arborist saddles shall meet the hardware material, strength, and testing requirements outlined in ANSI 359.1.

8. Arborist climbing lines shall have a minimum diameter of 7/16 (11 mm) and be constructed from a synthetic fiber, with a minimum breaking strength of 5,400 pounds (24.02 kilonewtons (kN)) when new. Maximum working elongation shall not exceed 7.0% at a load of 540 pounds (2.402 kN). Arborist climbing lines shall be identified by the manufacturer as suitable for tree climbing.

9. The qualified arborist shall assure that each component of the climbing system is approved by the manufacturer for its intended use as well as its compatibility with other components of the climbing system.

10. Prusik loops, split-tails, and work-positioning lanyards used in a climbing system shall meet the minimum strength standards for arborist climbing lines.

11. Snap hooks (rope snaps) used in climbing shall be self-closing and self-locking, with a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds (22.24 kN).

12. Carabiners used in climbing shall be self-closing and self-locking, with a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds (22.24 kN). Carabiners shall be designed to release the load by requiring at least two consecutive, deliberate actions to prepare the gate for opening.

13. Splicing shall be done in accordance with cordage manufacturers' specifications.

14. All load-bearing components of the climbing system shall meet the minimum standards for arborist climbing equipment.

15. Equipment used to secure an arborist in the tree or from an aerial lift shall not be used for anything other than its intended purpose. The arborist climbing line may be used to raise and lower tools.

16. Rope ends shall be finished in a manner to prevent raveling.

17. Ropes and climbing equipment shall be stored and transported in such a manner to prevent damage through contact with sharp tools, cutting edges, gas, oil, or chemicals.

18. Arborist climbing lines shall never be left in trees unattended.

19. Arborists shall have available a climbing line and at least one other means of being secured while working aloft; for example, an arborist climbing line and a work-positioning lanyard.

20. The arborist shall be secured while ascending the tree. The arborist shall be tied in once the work begins and shall be tied in until the work is completed and he has returned to the ground. The arborist shall be secured when repositioning the climbing line.

21. While ascending a ladder to gain access to a tree, the arborist shall not work from or leave the ladder until he is tied in or otherwise secured.

22. A false crotch and/or false crotch redirect may be used at the discretion of the arborist in lieu of a natural crotch.

23. The tie-in position shall be such that the arborist will not be subjected to an uncontrolled pendulum swing in the event of a slip.

24. When a climber is working at heights greater than one-half the length of the arborist climbing line, a figure-8 knot shall be tied in the end of the arborist climbing line to prevent pulling the rope through the climbing hitch.

B. Pruning and trimming.

1. Voice communications among arborists aloft and among arborists and other workers on the ground shall be established before cutting and dropping limbs. The communication method shall be clearly understood and used by all workers during all operations. The command "stand clear" from aloft and the response "all clear," "Underneath," or "No" from the ground are terms that may be used for this purpose. Prearranged, two-way hand signals may also be used when verbal communication is not possible because of distance or surrounding noise levels. Arborists and other workers returning to the work area shall be acknowledged by arborists aloft.

2. Pole pruners and pole saws, when hung, shall be securely positioned to prevent dislodgment. Pole pruners or pole saws shall not be hung on electrical conductors or left in a tree unattended. Pole saws and pole pruners shall be hung so that sharp edges are away from the arborist and shall be removed when the arborist leaves the tree.

3. Scabbards or sheaths shall be used to carry handsaws when not in use. Folding saws, when not in use, shall be closed and hooked to the arborist saddle.

4. Pole tools used in line-clearance operations shall be constructed with fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) or wooden poles meeting the requirements of 16VAC25-90-1910.269.

5. A separate workline shall be attached to limbs that cannot be dropped safely or controlled by hand. Arborist climbing lines and worklines shall not be secured to the same crotch.

6. Dry conditions and dead palm fronds present an extreme fire hazard. When dry conditions exist, arborists and other workers shall not smoke while working in or near dead palm fronds. All chain saws used under such conditions shall have mufflers and spark arresters in good working condition.

7. Palm frond skirts that have three years or more of growth shall be removed from the top down. Arborists performing this work shall be supported by an arborist climbing line and a false crotch. Arborists shall never attempt to remove skirts of three years or more by positioning themselves below work areas while being supported by a lanyard.

8. Cut branches shall not be left in trees upon completion of work.

C. Cabling.

1. Arborists and other workers on the ground shall not stand under the work area of a tree when a cabling system is being installed.

2. Tools used for cabling, bark tracing, and cavity work shall be carried in a bag, on a belt designed to hold such tools, or attached to a tool lanyard.

3. Arborists installing cabling systems in trees shall be positioned off to one side in order to avoid injury in case of cable system failure that could occur when a block and tackle or a hand winch is released.

4. When removing a cable from a tree, a block and tackle or come-along system shall be installed before removing the existing cable.

5. When installing a replacement cable, the replacement cable shall be fully installed before removing the outdated cable.

D. Rigging.

1. Arborists performing rigging operations shall inspect trees for their integrity to determine whether the trees have any visible defect that could affect the operation. If it is determined that the tree poses a risk of failure due to the forces and strains that will be created by the design of the rigging operation, an alternate plan shall be used that does not expose workers to the hazards of a failure.

2. The number of connecting links used for connecting components of a rigging system shall be minimized when possible. Connecting links shall interface properly and be in compliance with manufacturers' specifications and limitations (reference 16VAC26-60-120).

3. The qualified arborist shall ensure that load ratings shown on the rigging equipment or provided by the manufacturer for all ropes, connecting links, and rigging equipment are observed in all rigging operations. Rigging equipment shall be chosen for the specific task based on working-load limits and design specifications.

4. All equipment used for rigging operations shall be in good working condition. Equipment that has been damaged or overloaded shall be removed from service. Items removed from service shall be tagged until repaired or discarded.

5. To avoid confusion between rigging equipment and climbing equipment, the equipment shall be clearly marked to indicate their different purposes.

6. Rigging points shall be assessed for their structural integrity by a qualified arborist. The rigging plan and the tree shall be considered relative to the forces being applied to any part of the tree, including branch attachments and anchoring roots, before a rigging point is chosen and established.

7. Climbers shall choose tie-in points that will provide proper protection while allowing for a separation between the rigging system and the climbing system. Running rigging lines shall not be allowed to come into contact with any part of the climbing system.

8. Arborists performing rigging operations shall be educated to understand and trained to estimate the potential forces at any point in the rigging system being used. The system components shall comply with working-load limits relative to the operation and the maximum potential forces.

9. Careful consideration shall be given to the potential forces resulting from the specific influences of rope angles as well as the number of lines and/or line parts that will act on any rigging point.

10. Prior to the start of removal/rigging operations, a communication system shall be established in accordance with the requirements in subdivision B 1 of this section.

11. A work zone shall be established prior to the start of rigging operations. Workers not directly involved in the rigging operation shall stay out of the pre-established work zone until it has been communicated by a qualified arborist or qualified arborist trainee directly involved in the rigging operation that it is safe to enter the work zone. Workers shall be positioned and their duties organized so that the actions of one worker will not create a hazard for any other worker.

12. Only qualified arborists or qualified arborist trainees directly involved in the operation shall be permitted in the work zone when a load is being suspended by the rigging system. All workers shall be kept clear of suspended loads.

13. Taglines or other means may be used to help control and handle suspended loads.

14. Arborists working aloft shall position themselves so as to be above or to the side of the piece being rigged and out of the path of movement of the piece when it has been cut. Climbers and their climbing systems shall be positioned outside of the rigging system itself when a cut is being made or a load is being moved or lowered. Climbers shall have an escape plan prepared.

15. The spars, limbs, or leaders being worked on and the spars being used for tie-in and/or rigging points shall be assessed for structural integrity and potential reaction forces that could cause a spar to split when it is cut.

16. Steps shall be taken to prevent spars from splitting or tearing during the rigging operation, and climbers shall take steps to avoid trapping, pinning, or entangling themselves in the system should the tree split or the rigging fail. Load binders are one possible means of preventing splitting.

E. Tree removal.

1. Before beginning any tree removal operation, the chain-saw operator and/or crew leader shall carefully consider all relevant factors pertaining to the tree and site and shall take appropriate actions to ensure a safe removal operation. The following factors shall be considered:

a. The area surrounding the tree to be removed, including nearby trees;

b. Species and shape of the tree;

c. Lean of the tree;

d. Loose limbs, chunks, or other overhead material;

e. Wind force and direction;

f. Decayed or weak spots throughout the tree (be aware of additional hazards if these conditions exist in the hinge area);

g. Location and means to protect other persons, property, and electrical conductors;

h. Size and terrain characteristics or limitations of the work area; and

i. Evidence of bees or wildlife habitation in the tree.

2. Work plans for removal operations shall be communicated to all workers in a job briefing before commencing work.

3. Workers not directly involved in the removal operation shall be clear of the work area, beyond the length of the tree, unless a team of workers is necessary to remove a particular tree.

4. A planned escape route for all workers shall be prepared before cutting any standing tree or trunk. The preferred escape route is 45 degrees on either side of a line drawn opposite the intended direction of the fall. Obstructions shall be cleared along the escape path. The chain-saw operator shall use this path for egress once the cut has been completed.

5. When it is necessary to shorten or remove branches before removing the tree, the arborist shall determine whether the tree can withstand the strain of the lowering procedures. If not, other means of removing the tree shall be considered and used.

6. The crew leader shall determine the number of workers necessary for tree removal operations.

7. The crew leader shall develop a work plan so that operations do not conflict with each other, thereby creating a hazard.

8. Climbing spurs shall have gaffs of a type and length compatible for the tree being climbed.

9. Wedges, block and tackle, rope, wire cable (except where an electrical hazard exists), or other appropriate devices shall be used when there is a danger that the tree or trees being removed may fall in the wrong direction or damage property. All limbs shall be removed to a height and width sufficient to allow the tree to fall clear of any wires and other objects in the vicinity.

10. Tackle blocks and pulleys and their connecting links shall be inspected immediately before use and removed from service if they are found to be defective.

11. Workers returning to the work area shall not enter until the chain-saw operator has acknowledged that it is safe to do so.

12. When a pull line is being used, workers involved in removing a tree or trunk shall be clear by a minimum of one tree length.

13. All workers other than the individual engaged in manual land-clearing operations shall be at least two tree lengths away from the tree or trunk being removed. This requirement does not apply in the presence of site restrictions, such as waterways or cliffs. Other arborists and workers shall be beyond the trees' striking range and at a distance as close to twice the tree's height as possible.

NOTE: This regulation does not apply to tree removal activities where the primary objective is land clearing in preparation for construction, real estate development, or other related activities, unless directly supervised by a qualified arborist. Such activities are covered by 16VAC25-90-1910.266.

14. Notches shall be used on all trees and trunks greater than five inches (12.7 cm) in diameter at breast height.

15. Notches and back cuts shall be made at a height that enables the chain-saw operator to safely begin the cut, control the tree or trunk, and have freedom of movement for escape:

a. The notch cut used shall be a conventional notch, an open-face notch, or a Humboldt notch.

b. Notches shall be 45 degrees or greater and large enough to guide the fall of the tree or trunk to prevent splitting.

c. Notch depth shall not exceed one-third the diameter of the tree.

d. The back cut shall not penetrate into the predetermined hinge area.

16. With a conventional notch or Humboldt notch, the back cut shall be one to two inches (2.5 to 5 cm) above the apex of the notch to provide an adequate platform to prevent kickback of the tree or trunk. With an open-face notch (greater than 70 degrees), the back cut shall be at the same level as the apex of the notch.

17. The two cuts that form the notch shall not cross at the point where they meet.

18. Before making the back cut, there shall be a command such as "stand clear" from the arborist operating the chain saw and a response such as "all clear" from the workers supporting the removal operation. Pre-arranged, two-way hand signals may also be used in accordance with subdivision B 1 of this section. Only designated persons shall give such signals. All workers in the vicinity shall be out of range when the tree or trunk falls. Visual contact shall be maintained with the tree or trunk until it is on the ground.

19. When the back cut has been completed, the chain-saw operator shall immediately move a safe distance away from the tree or trunk using the planned escape route.

20. Workers shall not approach mechanical tree removal or mechanical re-clearing operations, such as with a rotary or flail mower, until the operator has acknowledged that it is safe to do so.

F. Brush removal and chipping.

1. Traffic control around the jobsite shall be established prior to the start of chipping operations along roads and highways (see 16VAC25-73-40 B).

2. Brush and logs shall not be allowed to create hazards in the work areas.

3. To prevent an entanglement hazard, loose clothing, climbing equipment, body belts, harnesses, lanyards, or gauntlet-type gloves (for example, long-cuffed lineman's or welder's gloves) shall not be worn while operating chippers.

4. Personal protective equipment shall be worn when in the immediate area of chipping operations in accordance with 16VAC25-73-40 D.

5. Training shall be provided in the proper operation, feeding, starting, and shutdown procedures for the chipper being used.

6. Maintenance shall be performed only by those persons authorized by the employer and trained to perform such operations.

7. Brush and logs shall be fed into chippers, butt or cut end first, from the side of the feed table center line, and the operator shall immediately turn away from the feed table when the brush is taken into the rotor or feed rollers. Chippers shall be fed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

8. The brush chipper discharge chute or cutter housing cover shall not be raised or removed while any part of the chipper is turning or moving. Chippers shall not be used unless a discharge chute of sufficient length or design is provided that prevents personal contact with the blades (see 16VAC25-73-110, Appendix B, General Safety Procedures that Apply to All Tree Work).

9. Foreign material, such as stones, nails, sweepings, and rakings, shall not be fed into chippers.

10. Small branches shall be fed into chippers with longer branches or by being pushed with a long stick.

11. Hands or other parts of the body shall not be placed into the infeed hopper. Leaning into or pushing material into infeed hoppers with feet is prohibited.

12. While material is being fed into the chipper infeed hopper chute, pinch points continually develop within the material being chipped and between the material and machine. The operator shall be aware of this situation and respond accordingly.

13. When feeding a chipper during roadside operations, the operator shall do so in a manner that prevents him from stepping into traffic or being pushed into traffic by the material that is being fed into the chipper.

14. When using a winch in chipper operations, the operator shall ensure that the winch cable is properly stored before initiating chipper operations.

15. Refer to 16VAC25-73-60 C, for additional information.

G. Limbing and bucking.

1. Work plans for limbing and bucking operations shall be communicated to all workers in a job briefing before work begins.

2. When more than one worker is limbing or bucking a tree, each shall be positioned and their duties organized so that the actions of one worker will not create a hazard for any other worker.

3. Chain saws shall be operated away from the vicinity of the legs and feet. Natural barriers, such as limbs between the saw and the body, shall be employed where possible, while ensuring proper balance. While operating a chain saw, the preferred working position is on the uphill side of the work.

4. The worker shall make sure of firm footing before and during limbing and bucking. The worker shall not stand on loose chunks or logs that will roll when the log being bucked is sawed off.

5. Trees, limbs, or saplings under tension shall be considered hazardous. Appropriate cutting techniques and precautions shall be followed.

6. Wedges shall be used as necessary to prevent binding of the guide bar or chain when bucking trunks of trees.

7. Cant hooks or peaveys shall be used as an aid in rolling large or irregular logs to complete bucking.

8. If mechanized equipment is to be used, the equipment operator shall establish an effective means of communication with other workers (see subdivisions B 1 and D 10 of this section).

9. Workers shall not approach mechanized equipment operations until the equipment operator has acknowledged that it is safe to do so.

H. Pesticide application.

1. The applicator shall follow label instructions in regard to pesticide applications.

2. The applicator shall follow pesticide label instructions in regard to laundering his clothing.

3. The applicator shall comply with the manufacturer's instructions with regard to showering or bathing at the end of each workday.

4. The employer shall provide a clean water source at the worksite, which can be used for emergency personal decontamination. Precautions shall be taken to prevent contamination of the clean water source. Drinking water and decontamination water shall be kept in separate containers.

5. The applicator shall not direct a solid spray column into contact with electrical conductors.

Statutory Authority

§ 40.1-22 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 27, Issue 15, eff. April 27, 2011; Errata, 37:15 VA.R. 2207 March 15, 2021.

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