Tyler Haas estimated his crew at the City of Norfolk in Nebraska has trimmed over 250 trees this past year. Low reaching branches need to be removed from hanging over trails; some trees will have dead branches that could fall on passersby, and other trees need proper manicuring. With a horticulture degree and as a member of the Norfolk Parks Division staff, Haas knows that trimming tree branches takes a different skill set than sawing down a tree, and it also carries certain safety risks.
“Chainsaws can slip, and large branches can fall on you, your co-workers, or your equipment, so it’s vitally important to use good safety practices when trimming trees,” Haas said.
Those safe practices start with using proper safety equipment and the correct tree trimming safety apparel, including heavy chainsaw chaps, thick gloves, steel-toed boots, a hard hat, a face shield, and earmuffs.
Once attired in safety gear, Haas said it’s important to consider the positioning of the tree trimmer as every tree trimming situation will be different and needs to be evaluated and set up accordingly.
“I’d recommend not using a ladder unless it’s a very small tree with small diameter branches as a ladder can become unstable when using a chainsaw. Also, it’s not recommended to stand in the back of a pickup to trim branches as the falling branches are unpredictable and make it difficult for the worker to get out of the way of a falling branch,” Haas said.
The City of Norfolk purchased a boom truck that allows a worker to get closer to the branch and not under it when trimming it. A fall protection harness provides additional safety. Even though he has the relative safety of a boom truck, Haas said he always waits for good weather when trimming branches.
“The wind can sway a boom truck and make it difficult to predict where a cut branch will fall,” Haas said. Workers also do not do trim work if the weather is at all wet or icy.
If work needs to be done around electrical lines, the power company is contacted to kill the power to the lines until the trimming is completed.
Haas said they always are on the lookout for spectators who may want to watch them trim the tree branches, and they are especially vigilant when working on trails and in parks as people tend to want to use the trails even in areas where they are trimming.
“We cordon off areas of the park when we’re working to ensure that someone isn’t running through the area right when a branch falls. People are pretty good about avoiding barricaded areas,” Haas said.
Haas said it’s essential to take good care of the trees in Nebraska municipalities. Tree trimming is necessary to keep the public safe; however, safety is crucial for workers performing this critical task.
The League Association of Risk Management provides Lean on LARM Safety Grants for members who would like to apply for tree trimming safety equipment. The City of Norfolk was recently the recipient of forestry safety gear purchased with the grant funds. For more information about the grant, go to www.larmpool.org.