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.

63 Comments

  1. Julie Myers May 27, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I was thinking about removing some of the tree limbs of my own trees for a while, but after reading more about the possible dangers that can occur, it sounds like a job left for the professionals! When I find a good service, I will try to find someone that follows these 7 tips and tries to stay safe. I will be sure that they try to keep their area safe and that they work with at least one other person just to be sure they are both safe. If I look for these things, I am sure it will really help me out. Thank you for the great post! http://www.cleancuttrees.com.au

  2. Gary Birtles May 27, 2015 at 10:44 am

    It is always better safe than sorry when it comes to something like this. If you don’t have much experience with tree trimming, it probably isn’t something you should attempt for yourself. There are a lot of other DIY projects that are perfectly safe to do around your home, but this isn’t one of them. There are a lot of dangers to consider and it is best left to a professional service. http://www.arborforce.com.au/tree-services/tree-removal/

  3. Regina Peterson June 8, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Every job is different, and they should not all be done in the exact same manner. I tried cutting down my tree in my front yard without a partner, and it just about ended in a disaster. I was both, trying to get out of the way and push the tree and it didn’t turn out very well with the tree missing my car by only a few inches. Power lines is one thing that is easy to forget about as well. Tip number 7 is one that can really save you as well. http://jonnystreeandlandscaping.com/

  4. Caleb Hart June 10, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Nobody wants to have an accident while working on their trees. My father fell out of a tree when he was younger. He was trying to cut some branches and he wasn’t wearing all the right gear. http://www.advancetreelopping.com.au/

  5. James Harvon June 24, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    There is a lot more that goes into tree care than I imagined. Trimming and removing trees is not easy. The best way that I have found to do this is to have a professional come in. Trees can be extremely heavy and need to be treated by those trained for the service. http://www.scottlanestreesrv.com

  6. Jeff Bridges June 25, 2015 at 9:43 am

    You really need to be careful when trimming a tree, especially a larger one that you have to climb. These tips are very useful for tree removal as well. You need to take your time to assess the work before you do it in order to do it safely and effectively.

    http://www.thearboristsurrey.ca

  7. Corey Smith June 26, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Working alongside my son in-law, I know how important it is to wearing protective gears while doing tree removal. At his company it’s the number one thing that they check before his crew starts work. That’s really neat though because hey, safety comes first. http://treesculptors.com/Services/

  8. Justinn Wills June 29, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Nice article. It is very useful for me as i have my own tree removal company and These tips will help everyone to understand the exact concept of tree removing.

  9. Alex Jennings June 30, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Hey, Ashley! Thanks for sharing this article with me! I have a couple trees in my backyard, and they need a good trimming! I’ll be sure to follow your suggestion by working with a partner; I’m sure my wife will love that one! Thanks for the safety tips! If I’m not able to safely trim the tree, I’ll make sure to hire a tree removal service.

    Alex Jennings | Tree Removal

  10. abby travers July 2, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    When you need to have something removed from your property, it is almost more important to know how to do it safely, before even knowing how to do it. For this reason, I am glad I am reading the safety tips for tree removal before reading actually how to remove the tree. I don’t think people want to free themselves from something annoying, just to get hurt by not being safe.

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  11. Kandace sanderson July 6, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I think your tip two is unmistakably the most important in regards to safety with creating a strategy plan of how to trim that particular tree. Since it’s true, every tree and job is different, you should really focus on your second tip of checking where the branches would fall on the ground, how close you are to buildings, and if there’s power lines that run along where your job is. We’re definitely going to take this advice to heart and remember to check all around the tree for potential hazards before we get the chainsaw running to trim our trees. Thanks so much for all of this amazing safety advice for trimming trees!

    http://www.kiwitreelopping.com.au/services

  12. Casey Jones July 7, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Thanks Ashley for the advice on tree trimming safety! We have a serious need for some tree removal on my property. I will be sure to inspect the trees and surrounding areas before getting to the removal process. I will also hire professionals to do the job for added safety.

    http://www.djstree.com/Tree_Removal_Stump_Grinding_Colchester_VT.html

  13. DeloresLyon July 9, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Thanks for sharing all of these tips on trimming trees safely. I had no idea that there would be so much to consider when it comes to cutting some branches. In fact, this is making me reconsider this job as a “do it yourself” one. It might be easier to get a professional so that I don’t have to spend hours preparing for the trimming. http://www.melbournetreestumpremoval.com.au

  14. Emily Smith July 10, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Ashley, this was an informative post about tree trimming. My husband and I have some larger trees in our yard we were wanting to trim. There is also one tree that might need to be removed. We were thinking of doing it ourselves. After reading this I think it might be better to leave this job to the professionals!

    Emily Smith | http://www.arbormantreecare.ca/en/dangerous_tree_assessment_and_removal.html

  15. Regina Peterson July 10, 2015 at 9:43 am

    I am planning on trimming my tree in the front yard this weekend. It has started to go onto our roof and intrudes in our neighbors yard. My neighbor could probably help me to make sure I am safe. http://www.ironwoodearthcare.com

  16. Brandon Roberts July 14, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Thanks a ton for sharing these safety tips Ashely. I always feel like when people are trimming up a tree, they think that they can do it themselves. Which makes sense though. It doesn’t seem like something that would require someone else being there with you. But, going off of you, it would be very smart for someone to always have another person there just in case. http://www.allseasontreeservicealberta.ca/tree_and_shrub_pruning_and_shaping.html

  17. Levy R. July 15, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I like that you pointed out how you need to wear the proper equipment if you are going to do some tree trimming. That way you don’t injure yourself while doing it because tree trimming can be dangerous. It also seems like if you don’t think you can do this then you should hire a professional. http://www.edmondstree.com/SERVICES/

  18. Victoria Runda July 21, 2015 at 6:55 am

    Safety should always be your first priority. Understanding what how you are going to attack each tree safely is a primary concern. Make certain that you have all the equipment necessary to make sure that you can do so without worry. http://www.treesafe.com.au/acreage-land-clearing

  19. Wilfredo Hernandez July 22, 2015 at 8:08 am

    I like your safety tips about tree removal because these are things that many people, who not in that industry, do not think of. For example, I knew that power lines were dangerous, but I didn’t know that the utility company could come out and turn them off or insulate them so that you could be protected. If I ever have to do tree removal I will make sure to follow these safety guidelines. http://www.bhaneyandsons.com/services/tree-removal-services/

  20. Regina Peterson July 22, 2015 at 10:14 am

    It is important to consider safety while tree trimming. I accidentally scratched my own car and ruined a fence from tree trimming. The pre-work assessment is pretty much the best thing you could do. http://www.outonalimbtree.net/Tree-Trimming-Stump-Grinding.html

  21. Douglas Brown July 23, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    My wife is insisting that I remove the tree in our yard myself, but I am not as convinced as her. I think these tips will be very helpful, and I will use it as a checklist to make sure I can actually do this! I do not have all the necessary attire to do this job yet, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find the equipment, like slip resistant shoes. However, I am going to look into services to have them on hand in case it doesn’t go as planned. Better to leave it to the professionals. http://treesculptors.com/Services/

  22. rose nickelson July 24, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Doing anything to a tree can be dangerous especially when you include power tools. I don’t know to much about tree trimming so these tips are helpful and will hopefully keep me safe. I was wonder if you have any safety tips about tree removal? It seems like something I should leave to the professionals. http://www.heritagetreecare.com.au/tree-removal/

  23. Betty Johnson September 14, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Not using conductive tools near power lines is a good idea. No one wants to have an accident with electricity. There’s a lot more things to consider when you’re trimming trees than I’d originally thought. Maybe I’ll just hire a service to do this. It would probably be safer. http://www.islandviewtreeservice.com/services

  24. Jay September 14, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Tree trimming and removal is very dangerous and should only be performed by true professionals! Not only can you injure yourself, but you can cause major damage to your trees by improper pruning. Always make sure your tree service can provide proper insurance and licenses. If you need more information about emergency tree removal in atlanta ga visit us at http://www.emergencytreeremoval.net

  25. Josh Allen September 16, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    The 7 tips that you give us so we can be safe while trimming trees are really helpful. Especially the fourth tip about working with a partner. Because while I was trying to remove a tree branch from my friend front yard. The ladder I was standing on slipped off the tree. I ended up grabbing the branch and hanging there for a few minutes before my friend came out of his house. If I had of been working with a partner I would of had to hang there very long he could of just put the ladder back up.

    http://www.tripointtreeok.com/tree-trimming-and-removal

  26. Karen - arbormasters.com October 11, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    I won’t do those things on my own. It has a lot of risks. There are regulation about health and safety for workers that is working in that kind of environment. Workers need proper training and enough safety equipment as well.

  27. Kate Welling January 11, 2016 at 11:35 am

    These are great tips! We are wanting to remove a lemon tree in our yard! We realized that the trunk is closed to rotting and next to another lemon tree that seems to be doing fine. We do not want it to affect the other tree by keeping or removing it. We are looking into hiring someone to remove the tree for us! http://mitreecare.com/tree-services.html

  28. Gillian Babcock January 29, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    I really appreciate you giving me some insight about tree trimming. I have this huge tree in my backyard that I want to trim down. The only problem is is that I don’t know how to do it. That being said, I’m going to make sure I follow your tips in order to properly trim my tree. I hope I do it all right. Thanks for the help. http://brushshark.com

  29. Garratt Campton April 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Sound advice, but best to contact a professional who has all the required equipment to do the job such as: http://aussietreecare.com.au/

  30. Tyler Haddon April 20, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve seen so many tree-trimmers not use the correct PPE. Great safety advice for those attempting to DIY!

  31. Ed Poole May 19, 2016 at 6:44 am

    I have done some cutting myself, but i think i have to call Tree
    cutting service
    for the big ones.

  32. Jacie Thompson June 8, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    I think one of the most common safety mistakes is when people don’t protect the people passing by. People who trim or remove trees definitely need to mark off the work area around the tree like you mentioned. If other pedestrians are warned and kept away from potential danger, than a lot more accidents can be avoided. http://jonnystreeandlandscaping.com/

  33. Hannah Schroeder November 10, 2017 at 1:43 am

    Thanks for describing the protective equipment you need for tree removal like lineman’s gloves and hard hats. My husband wants to take out the rotten oak in our backyard himself, but I’m worried for his safety. He doesn’t have gloves or a hard hat, so I should point that out and hire a professional service instead.

  34. Chris S. Martin April 13, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    There is an old tree in my yard that I am looking to remove soon, so thanks for the safety tips. I like that you suggest using a helmet and goggles during the project. You never know when a branch might fall and hit you, so having this stuff would make me feel much safer.

  35. Chris S. Martin April 13, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    There is an old tree in my yard that I am looking to remove soon, so thanks for the safety tips. I like that you suggest using a helmet and goggles during the project. You never know when a branch might fall and hit you, so having this stuff would make me feel much safer.
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