OSHA Safety Manuals | Tree Trimming Safety
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tree trimming

Tree Trimming Safety

Tree Trimming Safety

Tree trimming operations require climbing, pruning, and felling trees. Hand and portable power tools such as loppers, trimmers, and chainsaws make the necessary cuts. Aerial lifts and chippers bring workers to the right height and clean up the worksite. The two leading causes of tree trimmer deaths are electrocutions and falls, so extra care and training is needed for work at heights and near power lines.

Energized overhead or downed power lines can cause electrocutions if you come into direct or indirect contact with them. Don’t use conductive tools, ladders, or pole trimmers where they may contact overhead power lines or electrical conductors. Treat all power lines as “hot” until you verify they are de-energized.

Follow minimum working distances from powered lines when you are in an aerial lift or when you are trimming trees and branches. If you must work close to power lines, contact the utility company to de-energize the lines or get them covered with insulating hoses or blankets. Don’t de-energize power lines unless you are trained and authorized.

Practice good timber management during tree trimming; know where to cut limbs and trunks and which direction they will fall. Inspect trees and limbs for weakness and cracks before you climb them. Don’t use dead, split, or weak branches for support. Place your hands and feet on separate limbs and move only one hand or foot at a time. Break or cut off dead limbs as you climb. Always work with another person who stays on the ground. Training in first aid and CPR are important to ensure quick response in an emergency.

Assess each tree and job to determine the appropriate gear for access. If you use a ladder, tie it off on a secure branch. Fall protection harnesses and climbing ropes may be needed for higher climbs. Inspect harnesses, latches, and ropes before and after each use. Watch where you cut to avoid accidentally cutting or damaging ropes and lanyards. For diseased or weakened trees, an aerial lift may be best. Get training before using an aerial lift.

On the jobsite, conduct a daily inspection to look for hazards such as broken limbs and electrical lines. Call off climbing or aerial access during wet, icy, or very windy weather. Inspect and sharpen tools to ensure that they operate properly. Mark off the work area around the tree to protect coworkers and bystanders. If you are working near or over a roadway, wear high visibility clothing and assess the road speed and shoulder width to determine what cones and signs are needed.

Personal protective equipment needed for tree trimming operations includes leather lineman’s gloves and sleeves for electrical work and non-conductive hard hats. Wear eye protection and hearing protection, as well as safety footwear with a heel and slip-resistant soles. Choose close-fitting, long-sleeved clothing that will not get hung up on tree limbs. Use chaps and gauntlets during chainsaw operations.