The New Zealand silly season got underway with two major tree-climbing incidents just before Christmas. The New Year rang in two more, equally serious.
Two of the four accidents involved seasoned practitioners and the other two were inexperienced tree climbers… to the point where they should not have been aloft alone in a tree.
Problem caused by a loose nut
Over the holiday break an old farming mate of mine offered this pearl of wisdom regarding the proliferation of quad bike accidents in New Zealand: the most common reason for (quad bike) accidents is not the quad bike itself.
According to my friend, the problem is almost always caused by the loose nut connecting the seat to the handlebars.
That got me thinking about tree climbing.
From experience, it’s almost always the ‘loose nut' connecting the harness to the climbing system who causes the accidents.
The interesting thing about the four silly season accidents is the attribution of blame.
The two seasoned climbers recognized they were the ‘loose nut’ in the equation.
Both accepted the blame, accepting the fact they momentarily took their eye off the ball, with broken limbs as payment for their lack of attention to detail.
In contrast, the two inexperienced climbers blamed 'gear failure' for their misfortune (independently).
Catastrophic gear failure? Yeah right.
As you can imagine PPE gear failure is a significant event – it’s a rare day indeed when hardware and/or climbing lines catastrophically fail without some form of prior warning (the very reason for daily gear checks).
That’s not say gear cannot fail - or wear out (the pile of redundant equipment on Treetools front counter is testament to the fact that indeed it does).
But, as suggested in the quad bike anecdote, the most common cause of accident is the ‘loose nut’ connected to the harness… not the gear itself.
Worn and busted tree climbing equipment is a permanent fixture on Treetools front counter… much to the fascination of visitors, particularly those not directly involved in the industry.