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Tree-Trimming is More Dangerous than You Think: How to Keep Yourself Safe When Trimming Greenery

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | December 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Tree-Trimming is More Dangerous than You Think: How to Keep Yourself Safe When Trimming Greenery

Tree-trimming operations are performed daily in many different industries. It is an activity that can be highly dangerous.  Employees trimming trees may need to wield a saw, axe or cutter to get rid of a few nasty tree branches while working at heights well above six feet or more.  Accident statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA reflect serious accident rates. Other hazards associated with tree trimming could include being struck-by a falling tree branch or being electrocuted when trimming trees. As you may have seen recently on the news, a man suffered fatal injuries California after a tree limb hit him on the head.

Based on data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System, 6,359 work-related fatalities between 1980 and 1989 have resulted from tree trimming and cutting activities. Nine percent of the death toll was because of falls, while 7 percent were due to electrocutions. During the same period, the NTOF also found out that 207 workers or about 21 workers annually die from tree trimming and cutting-related work injuries.

How can one keep safe on the job? OSHA recommends the following general safety tips, as published in its Tree Trimming Safety Manual for the Landscaping and Horticulturist Industry:

Learn Everything You Can

Read the manual and learn everything you have to about climbing and operating tree-trimming machineries. Take note of warning labels (i.e. caution, warning and danger) on devices. If you don’t understand something, or encounter a problem while operating the equipment, ask your supervisor before proceeding.

Focus on Working Safely

Do not take shortcuts ever. Take your time when doing your work—no one is rushing you to finish immediately. Observe safety measures: conduct a pre-work inspection of the machineries; wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. hard hats, hearing protection devices, leg protection clothing, gloves, non-slip boots, safety harnesses, masks and face shields); inspecting the trees for any sign of wildlife, nests and hives, poisonous plants and cracks; and using warning signs, cones and flaggers to warn pedestrians or motorists in the area.

Other Safety Measures

Never work when you are inebriated. If you are taking medication that may affect your primary senses, or your ability to keep focus on the job, discuss your options with your doctor. Do not attempt to climb trees or operate machinery without getting a doctor’s clearance when you’re on medication.

Preventing Electrocution

PNM, an Albuquerque -based power provider, emphasizes on preventing electrocution when trimming or cutting down foliage. According to the company, workers should never attempt to trim a tree that is within proximity, or worse leaning or touching a power line. The company also recommends contacting them (if you’re in New Mexico), or rather, your local power provider when you see trees that touch power lines. Some power companies, in fact, offer tree-pruning services for community residents and clients.

Preventing Falls

Last but not the least, OSHA also reminds workers to follow the necessary precautions when climbing trees, which include tying the ladder used for climbing to the tree, using ropes and harnesses when climbing trees, cutting away from the location of safety lines and harnesses, and making use of the right climbing knot (i.e. eight knot). If you don’t know how to tie the appropriate knot for a particular climbing task, you can always to refer to OSHA’s Tree Trimming Safety Manual for the Landscaping and Horticulturist Industry.

Learn more about tree trimming safety techniques with OSHA safety training online. To access our courses, visit our dedicated page for OSHA training 10 and 30 courses. Always choose safety!


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