Learning how to climb to the top, safely

AJ Tataronis from the Arnold Arboretum helps Lucas Griffith from the Harvard Forest

A.J. Tataronis (left) from the Arnold Arboretum helps Lucas Griffith from the Harvard Forest harness up.

2 min read

The Arnold Arboretum is celebrating its Sesquicentennial and this year it served as the backdrop for a unique training program aimed at keeping Harvard’s workers safe and its trees healthy.

During October, Harvard Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) brought together a collection of arborists, landscapers, and safety experts to ensure that employees have the knowledge necessary to safely care for some of the University’s oldest and most precious resources — its trees.

“The University is responsible for maintaining thousands of trees across its campuses,” said Harvard’s Associate Director of Occupational Safety Chris Rowell. “This work can pose safety challenges for the employees charged with climbing high off the ground to diagnose potential issues, prune branches, and sometimes remove severely compromised or dying trees.”

During the multi-day training, safety experts worked closely with employees from Harvard Energy & Facilities, the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard Forest, and Dumbarton Oaks for both in-classroom and in-field training. The employees focused on a range of topics including personal protective equipment, how to properly secure a work site, ascending and descending techniques, load testing, and fall protection.

“Caring for Harvard’s tree canopy is a team effort that offers long-ranging benefits for our campuses, surrounding communities, and the environment,” said Arnold Arboretum Director of Horticulture Andrew Gapinski. “Beyond making our landscapes more beautiful, trees are fundamental to making our urban environments more livable and sustainable in our changing world. This collaboration brings the University’s tree care professionals to the Arboretum to celebrate it’s 150 years of tree care and ensure best practices in safety as we work to preserve these vital assets across the University.”

This safety training is just one component of Harvard’s larger commitment to nurture the broader ecosystem, natural environment, and green spaces it owns to enhance regional biodiversity and personal well-being in the community. The training included more than 50 employees and was held at the Arnold Arboretum from Oct. 4-7. Watch all the action in this brief video.