Friday, 22 May 2015


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The use of garden machinery can be hazardous and result in injury.  Whilst it is the duty of employers to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their employees this does not apply outside the work environment.  

Ensure that you protect yourself whilst operating machinery by carrying out hedge cutting safely. Safe operating procedures for the use of hedge cutters are detailed below.

The most likely causes of accidents whilst using hedge trimmers are:
  • A lack of experience, training, instruction, information and supervision.
  • Horseplay, fooling around and general lack of care and attention.
  • Failure to wear the correct Personal Protective Equipment. Injury to eyes from failure to wear safety visor or goggles. Hearing loss caused by the failure to wear ear defenders when operating the equipment. Head injuries from failing to wear a safety helmet when there is a risk of head injury. Cuts and abrasions caused by failure to wear work gloves or long sleeved work wear clothing when operating or maintaining the equipment. Injury to feet not protected by safety boots from contact with cutting head. Failing to wear long sleeved non-snag work wear clothing resulting in bodily contact from the blades when clothing is snagged.
  • Injury caused by blade contacting body parts or fixed objects due to fatigue of operative. 
  • Lacerations caused by contact with blade due to a kick back caused by contacting material that is beyond the capabilities of the machine.
  • The trimmer safeguards are removed, badly adjusted or the trimmers are not properly maintained, particularly when the blades are blunt.
  • HAVS from using vibrating machines without taking breaks, sharing tasks, using job rotation and/or adhering to exposure limits. The failure to maintain the machines, especially the handles and vibration absorption units. Failing to keep hands and fingers warm during cold weather.
  • Back strains caused by incorrect posture or overstretching whilst using equipment, incorrect lifting technique to load and unload equipment.
  • Electrocution from contact with electricity supply cables due to a failure to survey the work area before commencing work.
  • Failing to remove objects that could foul the trimmer, particularly fencing, and concealed wire. 
  • Working on very uneven, soft or sloping ground or on ground where there are many obstructions all of which can cause the operator to trip or slip. Failing to wear non-slip soled safety boots causing slips. Tripping due to a failure to keep a tidy work area by regularly removing the cuttings to the designated disposal area.
  • Various toxicity effects caused by hazardous substances not being handled as detailed in relevant COSHH Assessments i.e. fuel, oil and greases.
  • Hit by a moving vehicle when working adjacent highways or car parks due inadequate signing and coning or failing to wear a Hi-Vis jacket.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from operating machine in a confined space.
  • Refuelling a machine without allowing it to cool, or smoking whilst fuelling.
  • The trimmers are moved in an arc towards the operator and not away from him.
  • The blades jam and the power is not switched off before freeing the blades with the result that the blades snatch and cause injury.
  • Using the trimmers in poor weather, particularly in heavy rain or intense cold when proper control of the trimmers cannot be maintained.
Operatives should be familiar with the operator’s manual for the machine that they are operating and know how to stop the machine quickly in an emergency.

Wear suitable protective clothing when operating these machines. This should comprise of safety boots with non-slip soles, long sleeved non-snag work wear/clothing, eye protection, ear defenders and a helmet where there is a risk of falling debris. A high visibility or reflective jacket should be worn when you are working by the roadside or in a car park, to enable oncoming drivers to see you, or where it is necessary to be clearly visible by third parties. Gloves will protect against cuts or lacerations and also to keep hands warm during cold weather maintain a good blood flow. Long trousers prevent injury caused by objects discharged from the machine. Secure long hair or jewellery against contact with the cutting blades. 

Where possible when hedge cutting by the roadside, face the on coming traffic. When working adjacent to a highway it may be necessary to sign and co
ne off the work area. 

Take frequent breaks and vary tasks as much as possible to avoid fatigue.

Use single sided trimmers rather than double sided to reduce the risk of injury from kick back situations.

Ensure machine is maintained as detailed in the operator’s manual and records retained. That when the blades are showing signs of wear (i.e. snagging on twigs frequently), that the machine is taken out of service until the blades are sharpened as detailed in the operator’s manual.

Before use, check to ensure all guards are in place and all grease points are greased. Ensure that there are no fuel leaks. Check that the emergency stop works. Clean any cuttings from the machine, especially around the exhaust manifold and cooling fins. Ensure the air filter is clear and fitted correctly. 

When transporting the machine ensure that the scabbard covers the blade, the fuel tank is upright and that the machine is held in position. The machine must be switched off during transit and fuel lines turned off where applicable. When transporting the machine by foot it must be switched off and the scabbard placed over the blade.

Designate an area for refuelling which is away from ignition sources, preferably in the shade. Fuel must be stored in a suitable and clearly marked container. Never smoke or handle ignition sources whilst fuelling. Make sure correct fuel type is used and correctly mixed with two-stroke oil where applicable. Switch the machine off and allow it to cool, before adding fuel in a well-ventilated area. Be careful, and use a funnel (if required) when filling, to prevent spills. 

Before commencing work check and remove from the work area any objects that may be discharged by or cause damage to the equipment.  Look out for trip hazards and that the ground conditions are suitable i.e. not too wet, uneven or too steep. The wearing of bank boots may help with grip on slopes. 

To start the machine place it on firm ground, in an open area, and maintain a good balance. Remove the blade scabbard and make sure the blades are not touching the ground or other obstructions. Turn the machine to the on position and select the starting throttle position. (Note: the on/off switch must be clearly marked). Set the choke and prime the pump if fitted. Place your left hand on the control handle and your left foot on the housing. Pull the starter cord and allow it to recoil into the housing. Repeat this until the engine fires. Turn the choke off and pull the starter cord until the engine runs and then blip the trigger throttle to return to idle speed.
To cut vertical faces (sides), lower the nose to the base of the hedge and cut, perpendicular to the hedge, from the bottom up, move forward and than cut from the bottom upwards again. Continue method.

To cut a horizontal face (top) angle the cutting blade slightly (0º to 10º) and swing the blade away from the operator in a horizontal sweep. The sweep should be made from the opposite side of the hedge from the operator towards the nearside so that cuttings are swept on to the ground. Continue method.

Always work in a methodical manner. Stop the machine and clear cuttings as often as necessary to keep feet free from trip hazards. Ensure that both handles are held at all times, never use the trimmer one handed. Always keep the blades clear of the body and be aware that the blades run on for a short period after the trigger is released, this is due to the flywheel. When a substantial amount of growth needs to be removed from the hedge it may be necessary to make several passes to gradually reduce the growth.

To avoid Hand Arm Vibration, check that any handles and vibration absorption units are in place and in good condition. Make sure that your hands are warm before starting work and periodically, during the work period, keep your hands warm to keep your blood circulating properly. Always wear gloves, do not grip the machine tightly. If possible, spread the work over a long period so that you can introduce regular rest intervals. 

Stop the engine when adding fuel, cleaning the machine or engine, sharpening the blades and making adjustments to the machine.

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