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Stump grinding safety tips

March 23, 2022 -  By
Ryan Lawn and Tree’s Vermeer SC70TX is outfitted with a side skirt that keeps debris from flying indiscriminately. (Photo: Ryan Logue)

Ryan Lawn and Tree’s Vermeer SC70TX is outfitted with a side skirt that keeps debris from flying indiscriminately. (Photo: Ryan Logue)

Cutting down a tree is only the beginning of the removal process. Long after the tree itself has been hauled away, its stump is left behind, which poses its own problems, experts say.

Stump grinding is necessary because it is the final step in killing the tree, so its roots can no longer grow.

LM spoke with stump grinding experts from Ryan Lawn & Tree and SavATree, about the best ways to prepare to grind a stump and the essential tips needed to stay safe while providing a potentially dangerous service.

Don’t skip the previews

Ryan Logue, pruner for Ryan Lawn & Tree in Missouri, says his first move when he arrives at a stump grinding site is to scout for potential safety issues.

Logue and team will identify the best place to park their truck(s) and check for any hazards which may include a hole, a raised driveway or a gas line. After discovering what challenges may await them at the stump, then he formulates a plan of attack.

The plan starts with the best route to get the grinder to the stump and includes what part of the stump he will grind first. Logue says that the stump itself is the first target most of the time, followed by the surface roots.

Gear up for safety

Grinding a stump can be a dangerous job, so experts say it’s important to ensure that safety is a top priority. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and attachments for the machine are essential to ensuring that a grinding operation is safe.

Logue says the Vermeer machines his team uses have side skirts that stop debris from flying in all directions.

Mike Tilford, director of tree care for SavATree in Colorado, recommends checking the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) regulations on stump grinding for more guidance on safety.

Logue has personal experience with face shields, citing a time when one of his crew members was almost struck in the face by a rock from the grinder. He says his crew uses Protos helmets, which provide several safety features, including a metal face shield and neck and ear protection.

Eye protection is also a must-have. Logue recommends safety glasses that are big enough to cover the entirety of one’s eyes, adding that they should be ANSI-certified.

Unexpected hazards

One hazard Logue says contractors might not expect are bystanders who want to watch the stump grinding in action.

“You’d be surprised with the number of people who think this is a super interesting process and want to watch,” he says. “If you’re focused on grinding the stump, someone could walk up next to your machine, and it could throw some pretty big chunks of debris that can do some damage.”

As a deterrent, Logue recommends setting up cones to mark the work area. If that doesn’t work, he says it’s important to have your head on a swivel.

Tilford says one of the most common mistakes he sees that could lead to a safety issue is an operator not turning the cutter wheel off before moving the machine.

“All it takes is hitting the controls wrong or hitting the pile of debris that is under the machine and you’re getting sprayed,” he says. “I see that one overlooked a lot because anything that takes extra time is often overlooked.”

Rob DiFranco

About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Landscape Management's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Landscape Management, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio.

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