If you are involved in trimming or pruning trees, whether at work or at home, understand the hazards and how to stay safe.

Breaking tree trunks can be a hazard to workers in the tree or on the ground. Protect yourself by inspecting each tree’s condition before beginning work.

Look for rot, which can occur at the base of the tree or at any point along its length. If one trunk of a multi-trunk tree is rotten, treat all of the trunks as rotten.

For trees that will be felled rather than pruned, use an increment core to determine the internal condition. For trees that are too rotten to be climbed and felled, use alternate methods, such as cranes, tying in to nearby trees, or felling the tree whole.

Falling wood can be a hazard during “chunking” operations, when sections of the tree are being removed from the top and are allowed to fall to the ground.

Protect yourself during chunking operations by clearly marking landing zones and maintaining good communication between workers at height and ground workers.

The worker in the tree should warn the ground crew using a prearranged, clearly audible or visible warning signal. Ground crew should acknowledge the signal and indicate whether the landing zone is clear.

Power lines. You can be injured or killed if you contact a power line. Protect yourself by always assuming that power lines are energized.

When possible, have the utility company de-energize and ground or shield power lines. Keep ladders, boom trucks and other equipment a safe distance from power lines:

  • 10 feet for lines carrying 50,000 to 345,000 volts
  • 16 feet for lines carrying 345,000 to 750,000 volts.
  • 20 feet for lines carrying more than 750,000 volts.