You may have trimmed your Christmas tree with tinsel recently, but tree trimming operations — the removal of limbs and branches from a tree without the removal of the tree itself or the tree trunk – can be dangerous and requires a different set of skills.
Tree trimming operations require climbing and pruning, often with portable power tools like chainsaws or trimmers. You may have to use an aerial lift to reach tall branches, putting you at risk for falls (or electrocution, if you’re near power lines). In fact, the two leading causes of death while tree trimming are falls from heights and electrocution, so extra training is needed before working at heights or near power lines.
Remember these 7 tips before you trim your trees:
1. Wear the right PPE.
Protect your hands with leather lineman’s gloves. For electrical work, wear close-fitting, long sleeved clothing and a non-conductive hard hat. Tree trimming operations can expose your eyes to dust, wood particles, insects, and pine needles, so be sure to wear comfortable eye protection. When operating a trimmer or chainsaw, you’ll also need ear protection. Wear shoes with heel and slip-resistant soles. Use chaps and gauntlets during chainsaw operations. And don’t forget fall protection!
2. Every job is different – do a pre-work assessment.
Each tree and job may require a different strategy and a different set of gear. If you use a ladder, tie it off on a secure branch. For higher climbs, you may need a fall protection harness, climbing rope, or an aerial lift. Inspect ropes, harnesses, and latches before and after each use. Be extremely careful when cutting branches and limbs to avoid accidentally cutting or damaging your equipment.
Check the local news – if you’re expecting wet, icy, or windy weather, it’s a good idea to call off a job that includes climbing or aerial access. You’ll also need to conduct an inspection for hazards like broken limbs and electrical lines before you start work. Inspect and sharpen any tools to make sure they operate efficiently and safely.
3. Protect passersby and co-workers.
Mark off your work area around the tree to protect passersby and co-workers. If you are working on a tree that extends near or over a road, wear high visibility clothing. Take into consideration the speed limit of that road and its shoulder width to determine what cones and signs are needed.
4. Work with a partner.
It’s always a good idea to work with another person who stays on the ground while you’re climbing. In the event of an emergency, both you and your partner should have training in CPR and first aid.
5. Don’t use conductive tools near power lines.
This includes ladders, pole trimmers, or other tools that can conduct electricity if they come into contact with overhead power lines or electrical conductors. Even downed power lines can still contain energy which can gravely injure or kill you. To be safe, treat all power lines as if they are energized, until you confirm that they are not.
6. Follow minimum working distances from powered lines.
Don’t get close unless absolutely necessary. Don’t de-energize any power lines unless you are trained, qualified, and authorized to do so. If your job requires you to get close with energized power lines, contact the utility company to de-energize the lines or request that the lines be covered with insulating hoses or blankets before you proceed with your work.
7. Inspect trees and limbs for cracks and weakness before you climb.
Break or cut off dead limbs as you climb. Never use dead, weak, or split branches for support. Place your feet and hands on separate limbs as you climb and only move one step at a time. While climbing, always work with another person who stays on the ground. If the tree is unsafe to climb, an aerial lift may be necessary. Always get training before operating or using an aerial lift.