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Chipping in for Safety

- December 13, 2018 by Glen O'Rourke, ALCM (View all posts by Glen)

Wood chippers (also referred to as wood shredders) are used by tree trimming and landscaping contractors to shred trimmed branches and pieces of brush in to small chips for use as mulch or compost material.

Basic operation is thus: the branches/brush are placed in to a feed chute where rollers will move them to a cutting chamber. Inside the cutting chamber a series of rotating knives shred the branches/brush in to the chips. After shredding, the chips are flung out of a discharge chute to a collection point.

Hazard Exposures

Wood chippers present many hazard exposures, up to and including being pulled in to the shredding chamber and suffering severe laceration/amputation and crushing injuries, up to and including death.

In the summer of 2017 in Northern California, a tree trimming contractor was operating a chipper to shred branches of a freshly trimmed tree. The employee operating the chipper picked up a branch and fed it in to the feed chute. However, the rope that was used to lower this branch from the tree was still attached. As the branch went through the feed rollers, the rope became entangled around the employee’s neck, thus strangling him as it was pulled in to the cutting chamber with the branch, resulting in a fatality.

Safety Tips: Before, During & After

What can you do to stay safe? In order to prevent injuries while operating a chipper, certain safe procedures need to be followed.

Procedures to follow BEFORE operation of the chipper:

  • Only personnel that have been thoroughly trained in the operation of the particular make/model of chipper in use should be allowed to operate the chipper.
  • A chipper should never be operated by a person working alone. Another trained person should always be in the immediate area.
  • Before use, perform the pre-start inspection procedures using the checklist provided in the operator’s manual provided by the manufacturer.
  • Ensure that the cutter chamber is free of foreign material or accumulated wood.
  • Ensured that hood that encloses the cutting chamber is properly secured, closed, and latched before operating the chipper.
  • Ensure that emergency stop buttons and bars are accessible and operational.
  • Follow the start-up procedures as outlined in the operator’s manual provided by the manufacturer.

Procedures to follow DURING operation of the chipper:

  • Wear a hard hat, eye protection, and a face shield (acrylic or metal mesh) to protect yourself from flying debris.
  • Wear hearing protection to limit your exposure to excessive noise.
  • Do not wear loose fitting clothing.
  • Wear sturdy, slip resistant footwear.
  • Do not feed branches in to the chipper until it has reached its full operating speed after start-up.
  • Ensure that branches being feed in to the chipper are free of any ropes, pulleys, or other foreign material.
  • When feeding branches, stand to the side of the feed chute, not in front of it. This will help prevent being pulled in to the machine should you be caught on a branch or struck by branches that kick-back.
  • Feed branches in to the chipper butt end first. This helps prevent kick-back.
  • Let go of the branch as soon as it begins to be pulled in to the machine.
  • If needed, use a push stick to assist small branches and pieces of brush in to the machine. NEVER USE HANDS/ARMS OR FEET/LEGS TO PUSH MATERIAL IN TO THE CHIPPER!

AFTER the completion of the chipping operations:

  • Shut off the machine per the procedure outlined in the operator’s manual from the manufacturer.
  • If any post-use inspection/cleaning/maintenance is to be performed, do not begin until: the machine’s moving parts to come to a complete stop; the key is removed; and a spark plug wires and/or battery cables are disconnected.

Wood chippers represent a significant exposure to series injuries. To prevent such injuries from occurring, specific safe procedures need to be practiced.

Sources:

Lind, Sara & Ricketts, Mitch; Chipper/Shredder Safety; Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment and Cooperative Extension; 2006; Manhattan, Kansas

Cal-OSHA Consultation Services Branch; Tree Work Safety Guide; Division of Occupational Safety & Health, California Department of Industrial Relations; 2016; Sacramento, California

Napavalleyregister.com; August 16, 2017

 

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