The Hazards of Tree Removal and Pruning

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The Hazards of Tree Removal and Pruning

Fatalities and serious injuries are high amongst homeowners but do not get reported on the news, as public car traffic accidents do. These accidents usually occur in back yards not witnessed by the public.

It is very easy to buy a chainsaw and ladder and not realize this is the first step to a high likelihood of injury or death. You don’t need a license and training to use these are you would if you want to use a car.

Instead of reciting all the many different horrible accidents I am familiar with I would like to inform you how professional arborists mitigate these incidences

First we have monthly safety meetings to review safe work practices, review near misses and accidents. We are constantly reminded that if you fall from a height of 10 feet onto a hard surface there is a 90% chance that you will die from your injuries within one year of the fall.

For this reason most arborist prefer not to use ladders unless they are roped in first.

Professional arborists are trained to operate chainsaws, to work at heights, to work near hydro, to use rigging, to fell trees, and to use heavy equipment. To become a recognized arborist you need to work at least 3 years under the supervision of an arborist that has 5 years experience.

Instead to exposing themselves to the dangers of climbing and dismantling a tree a homeowner is likely to take the easy route from the ground and fell a tree instead. Most people don’t realize this is just as dangerous and likely more dangerous than climbing.

What could go wrong?

First of all a tree is very heavy and once it starts moving in a certain direction nothing will stop it until it hits something solid. Once it hits something even if it is a ground it can kick back at the cutter or continue to roll and hit an unintended target. Often a tree when it hits the ground it will break and parts will fly at an unintended targets. These large pieces can travel a distance equal to the original height they fell from.

Wind can start the tree to fall in an unintended direction. It seems to often come unexpectedly in the wrong direction and in surprisingly strong gusts.

The cutter at the base of a tree becomes a target to falling branches that become dislodged as the moving canopy above and behind him starts to pass over him.

A professional arborist, to control the direction of the fall use pull ropes, wedges, different notches and cutting techniques. Too much pull or tension can cause the trunk to split causing loss of control (something known as barber chairing). Loss of control is also caused by poor hinge wood. The tree could be unexpectedly hollow or punky inside causing loss of control. There could be unexpected growth characteristics inside the tree or there could be metal inside the tree stopping the saw from cutting when you most need the saw to cut. Other things that could go wrong is misjudgement of the lean of the tree or misjudgement of the height of the tree. Hydro wires are often over looked and not seen. A person touching a tree touching a hydro wire can be electrocuted.

Once a tree is felled the danger is not over. Now you have branches under tremendous pressure. As you cut up this fallen tree the trunk can roll and these branches can spring up and do tremendous injury. Using a chainsaw under these circumstances of moving brush, increase the chances of getting cut or falling with a chainsaw in your hands.

Tree work requires the effort of a co-ordinated, well-practiced team. It should not be done by one person.

Maybe that money tied up in a chainsaw and ladder can go to better use. Consider hiring a professional arborist.
David Watts

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