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How safe are you?

Dave Gratton, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2006.

If you did not carry out maintenance on your car you would not pass the WOF required to enable you to legally drive on the road. But when we look at all the various machines and other equipment we use every day, their inspection and maintenance also needs to be on a regular basis. But that sometimes does not happen.

When was the last time you checked your pruning equipment for example?


Check your ladder for cracks. Is the top platform secure. Are the feet pointed enough to dig into the ground. If the ladder is used in high pruning tasks then check the safety chain is attached for securing the ladder against the tree.

Most injuries in silviculture are when either going up the ladder or when coming down. That is something you have control over, but always make sure the ladder is fit for the job.


Always check every day that your loppers are sharp and the nuts, bolts and washers are all as they should be. Blunt loppers or blades with dried up resin on them take extra muscle to shear a branch of a tree. When you are doing it all day, long term damage to your upper arm muscles may develop. It is much easier to sharpen the blade before use and save unwarranted wear and tear on your body.

Also, check your saw and make sure the blade is tensioned correctly and free from dried resin. Check the pouch into which the loppers and saw fit.

Safety devices

Every day check that all parts of the safety belt are secure and in good order. Recently a farm forester fell four metres from a tree while pruning when his safety belt broke. Fortunately he suffered only minor injuries, but it illustrates that these rare accidents can happen.

Make sure when purchasing safety equipment that it is fit for the purpose you want. In forestry the length of chain or rope that goes around the tree will be shorter than other industries require. If you shorten it or modify it then your warranty or guarantee will no longer be valid, and you may alter the stress loading capability. It is much better to send it back to the dealer and get exactly what you are paying for.

Generally when purchasing specialised equipment it pays to deal with a recognised forestry business that understands your requirements, such as Levin Sawmakers who are excellent in this regard.

The professional tree felling guide

The professional tree felling guide is new on the market. It is a fully illustrated, colourful, user-friendly publication presented in a robust wallet and targeted at tree fellers.

It sets out the standards for safe and productive tree felling using clear and simple language and includes information on the following topics –

  • Personal safety and wellbeing
  • Felling equipment and accessories
  • Safe felling practices
  • Basic felling cuts
  • Difficult trees and situations.

The guide reminds fellers of critical rules for tree felling and the safe work practices that they are expected to maintain. Copies are available for $10.00 from Justine Hine, FITEC, PO Box 137 067, Parnell, Auckland, email

ACC precautionary tale DVDs

ACC and Southland television have produced a series of ten 30- minute programmes focusing on key agricultural practices that can lead to severe and long term injuries on the farm. The programmes focus attention on simple practical steps that can be taken to reduce the high injury rate and associated costs.

These DVDs are free and have been screened on Channel 90 on the Sky network. They outline how to manage the risks of an injury in a particular job.


  1. Child safety on farms
  2. Latest update on ATV safety
  3. Hearing is precious – noise induced hearing loss
  4. Reducing injury costs. Part 1 – Farmsafe awareness and plans
  5. Reducing injury costs. Part 2 – Farmsafe skills
  6. Respiratory protection
  7. Shearing industry
  8. ATV helmets
  9. Slip, trips and falls
  10. Large animal handling.

They can be ordered from Sheree at Southland TV, phone 03 214 6900 or email


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