Brush Clearing Safety Tips
(from Maine Townsman, March 1998)
By Brian Fitzpatrick, Loss Control Manager, MMA Risk Management Services

It will take several months for Mainers to recover and finish cleaning up from the Ice Storm of ‘98. The ice storm has already caused enough damage to us in Maine, no sense getting hurt in the cleanup.

Here are a few things to think about before you start the clean up. They may help you complete this important task without injury. This list contemplates road side pick up and disposal of storm damaged trees. If actual tree trimming is involved there are different hazards involved that are not addressed here.


Take the time to plan…"short cuts can lead to deep cuts".

Take all normal traffic and work zone safety precautions, including "People Working" signs, cones, red flags, barricades and other warning devices.

Complete a visual inspection of the work zone before entering. There are still numerous broken limbs hanging and ready to fall.

Before any employee climbs, enters or works around any tree, a close inspection should be made to determine whether an electric conductor passes within 10 feet.

Since many power line repairs were made hastily and are considered temporary in nature, be on the look out for down lines and treat accordingly.

Look for poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac and possible animals living in or near brush piles, some could be rabid.



Operate all equipment in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Review all machine guarding and other appropriate OSHA and BLS standards. Make certain guards have not been removed and are functioning as designed.

All mechanical equipment should have effective guards installed that make it impossible for any body part to contact moving, sharp or hot parts of the machinery. Think about the following:

The cutting edge of tools should be suitably sheathed or guarded except while in actual use. Cutting tools should be kept sharp and properly shaped.


Access panels for maintenance and adjustment of the chipper blades and associated drive train shall be in place and secure during operation.

Chippers shall never be parked directly under tree being trimmed.

Employees shall not permit spectators to stand near machine while feeding brush into chipper.

Full-cover goggles or face shield shall be worn by employee when feeding brush into chipper.

Employee shall never place hands or other part of body into brush hopper while chipper is in operation.

Tools or other metallic objects shall not be used to push brush into chipper. Sweepings, which may contain foreign objects such as stones and nails, shall be loaded on truck and not fed into the chipper.

Ignition key shall be removed when chipper is left unattended. Complete Lockout / Tagout procedure should be used for repairs.

Proper hearing protective devices should be worn by all employees, while equipment is in operation.

Only wrist-length (nongauntlet) gloves shall be used by employees feeding a chipper.

Trailer chippers detached from trucks shall have their wheels chocked.

Operators shall follow manufacturer’s instructions on operation and maintenance.

Guards should be functional and inspected frequently, at a minimum before and at the end of the shift.

  For additional information on chippers, refer to OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.269.

Powered Trimming Equipment

 Employees operating powered trimming equipment shall wear suitable eye and face protection.

 Proper hearing protective devices should be worn by all employees.

 Chain-saw operators shall inspect the saw before each use to assure that all handles and guards are in place and tight, that all controls function properly, and that the muffler is operational.

 Chain-saw operators shall follow manufacturer’s instructions on operation and maintenance.

 When starting a chain saw, it shall be placed on or against a solid support and the area cleared of all co-workers.

 The operator shall grip the chain saw with both hands during the entire cutting operation.

 Saw bumper shall be against tree or limb before starting a cut.

 Chain-saw operators shall, when necessary, clear the immediate area around their work to make certain that brush will not interfere with either the chain saw or operator.

 All chain saws shall be equipped with "deadman" controls (control cannot lock in "on" position).

 The chain-saw engine or motor shall be stopped for the following:

 A gasoline-driven chain saw shall not be used above shoulder level or at a distance that would require the operator to relinquish a safe grip on the saw.

 Employees shall not approach chain-saw operator within the reach of the saw while the saw is in operation.

 Powered tools shall not be left unattended if connected to power source.

 Powered tools shall not be adjusted or repaired while connected to a power source.

 Guards should be functional and inspected frequency, at minimum before and at the end of the shift.

 Review manufacturer’s instructions and follow, no shortcuts.


 Know your limits, listen to your body and don’t push to the point of exhaustion.

 Lifting, bending reaching:

 When loading brush on a truck do not stand on or straddle the loaded brush.

 Employees must be trained in the proper use of all equipment.

Refresher courses and brief reminders prior to each shift are very helpful.

 Vary tasks if possible. Repeating the same task over long periods of time can contribute to inattention which can lead to serious injury.

Personal Protective Equipment

 Personal Protective Equipment is critical when working around brush and mechanized equipment. Quality equipment, including the following, should be provided AND USED:

Standard safety glasses are not enough when handling brush. There are simply too many opportunities to get poked in the eye. Standard safety glasses do not provide sufficient protection above, below and on the sides.

Protection is generally needed when the noise level is such that you have difficulty carrying on a normal conversation.

 Wear tight fitting long sleeves when handling brush or working in the vicinity of chippers and or other power driven equipment.

 If it becomes necessary to work in the vicinity of poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac you should keep sleeves rolled down, wear gloves and take other appropriate precautions.