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SafetyWatch: Winter pruning wisdom

February 10, 2021 -  By
Tree care professional pruning (Photo: Davey Tree Expert Co.)

Pruning in the winter is ideal because it’s easier to see growth, but it can come with safety hazards. (Photo: Davey Tree Expert Co.)

The winter season is often the best time to prune trees because it’s easier for tree care professionals to spot diseases and dead wood due to a lack of foliage and insects, according to Manny Nassar, technical adviser for the Davey Institute, a division of The Davey Tree Expert Co.

“I tell my guys to look for anything that looks dead or diseased, anything that’s crossing or rubbing,” says Nassar, who has been with Davey for 15 years. “From there, they can start working on structure. Also, you never want to move more than a quarter of growth on a tree at one time.”

However, he warns that wintertime pruning comes with a host of safety hazards due to snow and ice.

“When there’s snow and ice damage, it’s better to not climb or have rigging in the tree because of the slip and fall possibility,” he says. “It’s better to have a cherry picker or a bucket truck type of setup. If that’s not possible, then it’s probably better to hold off on doing any type of work on a tree that has slip and fall potential.”

Nassar adds that his No. 1 recommendation for companies is to train, train and train some more.

“We’ve had far too many serious accidents in our industry because of untrained professionals,” he says. “In our industry, we tend to hire people and put them on a truck right away, but usually, they need to be retrained again.”

He says Davey’s safety department provides training videos and performs in-person visits to conduct safety checks, making sure everyone has their personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, ear and eye protection, long-sleeved shirts, chaps and steel-toed boots.

The company also compiles a training book for each employee, where supervisors sign off on various skills when an employee has been trained in that area.

“If we’re ever audited by OSHA, the first thing they ask for is an employee’s training information,” Nassar says. “We hand them these books, and it shows that employees have been checked, are proficient in that task and have the ability to perform that kind of service.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor. She can be reached at swebb@northcoastmedia.net.

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