Trees need a trim and planning to do it yourself? Trimming trees can be very dangerous, so it’s important to take precautions and to employ safe work habits. Be aware of the three most common dangers and remain alert from start to finish. These three safety tips will help you keep safe while you trim your trees.
Safety Tip #1: Prepare Ahead of Time
Before starting, make sure to identify any potential hazards. Note electrical wires, broken limbs, if the tree has been weakened by disease or a storm. Also see if the tree has been cracked or if any tree branches have been rotten or split. Check for branches hanging over electrical wires. Also ensure that there’s no animal life, like nests or hives, in the tree. Don’t forget to look for poisonous plants, like poison oak or poison ivy.
Beyond that, use correct safety equipment, including:
- Leather gloves
- Safety goggles or glasses
- Climbing equipment
- Hearing protection
Mailman may deliver in rain or sleet or snow, but trimming trees should only be done on fine days. Even wind can cause potential hazards. Pruning can (and should) be done in winter, while the plant is dormant, but trimming trees is a whole other business. Since you’ll be climbing a trees or ladders, it’s essential to reschedule the event if it’s raining, icy or there’s high wind.
Clear the area beneath the tree and mark it carefully. One of the largest causes of injury and fatality when trimming trees is people getting struck by a branch or a tree trunk, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Safety Tip #2: Use Safe Practices around Electrical Wires
Moore’s Tree Service said, “If your clothing or any part of your body comes in contact with a live electrical wire it can kill or seriously injure you.”
If you’re not a qualified line-clearance tree trimmer, you cannot trim trees or branches that are within 10 feet of electrical wires. If you are unqualified, you will need to hire a qualified professional to cut the branches that are nearer the electrical lines.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), you can be electrocuted from direct contact, indirect contact or even arcing. Tree trimmers have been electrocuted from:
- A cut branch landing on an electrical line
- Being thrown from a tree after touching a live line
- Connecting a saw with an electrical line
- Wind blowing a branch into an electric line
- A power line electrifying the ground
It’s essential that anytime you trim trees you assume that all power lines are energized and active. If you’re working near power lines, call to de-energize or shield the lines.
Safety Tip #3: Avoid Falling Trees and Falling from Trees
Whether you’re using a ladder or climbing, falls can be fatal. Learn how to tie a knot correctly and always secure the ladder to the tree. Never place a ladder in a truck bed to get it reach higher and never cut the limb you’re anchored to. To protect yourself on the climb down, remove limbs that have already been cut and don’t step on a tree branch that isn’t strong enough to support you. This may all sound like common sense, but OSHA reports that mishaps in all of these areas have led to death.
It’s also incredibly important that when a tree is being felled, everyone in the vicinity is paying attention. Don’t turn your back when a tree is being cut down or branches are being removed. With the exception of the person doing the chopping, come no closer than two tree-lengths from the tree and make sure to communicate with the whole team to avoid accidents.
Make sure not to cut a tree on your own. Have someone spotting you, even if it’s just the next-door neighbor – and be sure to return the favor.
Trimming trees is dangerous business, even for professionals. If you decide to trim a tree on your own, make sure to take the proper precautions and not to tackle a project too big to handle.