Tree trimming may seem like a simple task, but it's important to perform the job with care--both for the tree's health and for your own safety. Tree trimming safety involves understanding the risks to people and property. It means having the right equipment for the task. Most importantly, it means knowing when to bring in the professionals.
Because all tree-trimming involves some risk, safety starts with a thorough evaluation of the tree and your reasons for trimming it. For example, evaluate if branches need to be removed for safety, whether branches impair visibility or whether they are in danger of falling and causing injury or property damage. You should also consider if the branches need to be removed for aesthetics or for tree health. If there's no clear reason, it's usually best not to trim at all.
Most homeowners should avoid trimming large, mature trees or branches that cannot be reached from the ground. Any job that requires climbing trees or using a ladder is best left to a trained professional. Without proper training and experience, you risk injury or death from falling out of the tree, falling off a ladder, branches falling unexpectedly or from accidentally contacting power lines.
Proper pruning equipment is essential. Struggling with the wrong tools can make you lose your balance and take unnecessary risks. Use pruning shears for stems under 1/2 inch. Use lopping shears for stems between a 1/2 and 2 inches. For larger branches, use a pruning saw. Pole-pruners can be used for hard-to-reach limbs.
To avoid injury, dress for safety. Long-sleeve shirts and pants will help you avoid scratches. Use gloves for a better grip and hand protection. Sturdy boots will protect your feet and help you keep your balance. Always use protective eye-wear to prevent injury from flying or falling splinters. If you're trimming overhead branches, wear a hard hat.
Use extreme caution when doing any overhead trimming. Branches often fall in places you don't expect them to. They could fall on you, on a person nearby or on a power line. Before doing any cutting, study the area for potential problems. If there's a power line anywhere in the vicinity, don't proceed. If the area is free of hazards, go ahead and make the cut, but be sure you have a clear path to step out of the way if you need to.
The tree-trimming task isn't safely finished until debris is removed from the site and disposed of. Downed branches not only pose a tripping hazard, they also encourage rodents and other pests. Don't allow brush piles to accumulate on your property. These pose a fire hazard for your home and to homes nearby. Use a chipper or take debris to a local compost or dump site. With a permit, you may be able to burn debris on site.