Bill Coulter is the CEO of Safe Tree Zones Pty Ltd, a finalist in this year’s Hunter Safety Awards.
Safe Tree Zones is an innovative tree lopping and removal company looking to change the face of the tree service industry, and typical of the high standard of this year’s finalists.
Bill’s vision is to move the industry away from the idea of men working at heights in elevated work platforms, dealing with chainsaws, ropes and pulleys to an infinitely safer environment where all the work is done with grapple saws and grapple shears on knuckle boom cranes all operated by radio remote control from the back of a truck.
The concept of Safe TreeZ came from Bill driving B-Doubles and wide loads up and down the F3 now M1 in late 2014.
Bill became aware of a growing problem, trees growing close too and over the freeway. He observed the dangerous pruning and control methods being employed.
“With all the emphasis on safety in the work place, there are still men up in the air in ‘cherry pickers’ reaching out with pole-saws, injuring shoulders and arms to get the job done, allowing branches to fall on the roadway,” Bill said. “Men still struggle feeding branches into chippers, often, close to the traffic lanes and with their back to the traffic.”
Bill comes from a forestry and sawmilling background and has extensive experience felling trees. He has never climbed one with a chainsaw and doesn’t intend to start now.
Although aware you could never totally replace climbers in the tree industry, he was convinced he could reduce the number of exposures to climbing danger.
Being a ‘can do’ person, Bill set out to gather information and expertise to solve this issue.
He consulted with logging industry contacts in Tumut and Albury. He flew to North Queensland and Melbourne to inspect potential equipment. He spoke at length with manufactures in Finland, Sweden and Italy.
In 2015, he founded a ‘new method’ of tree removal and vegetation control involving a truck, crane and grapple.
The method eliminates men working at heights, manual handling, falling objects, damage to infrastructure from falling objects, tedious clean-up and operators working in traffic flow danger areas.
Instead of noisy two-stroke chainsaws, the method utilises solar powered battery operated chainsaws.
Carrying saw fuel onto site is no longer required, nor is the dangerous “drop starting” saws because the electric chainsaws have a two-button start.
“The new system can remove a tree in less than half the time of the accepted current method,” Bill said. “No climbers, no falling branches, no men at heights and very little clean-up after the tree is removed.”
He has taken the process further, almost, eliminating the manual handling of branches into the chipper.
“We are able to hold and lift with the grapple up to .750mm Dia, safely,” Bill said.
“At maximum reach the crane will cut and lift 350kg of branch. Vertically we can cut at 18 metres; horizonally, we can cut at 15 metres.”
Bill recognises that there will always be trees the grapple saw can’t remove due to access, power lines and reach, but asserts that if you can get a truck and chipper on site, he can get a truck and grapple saw there also.
It’s only early days but Bill has high hopes for his system, having registered a patent on the process and the conveyor system, all fitted within the footprint of a semi trailer body.