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.

Saturday 16 May 2015


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Planting of standard and semi mature trees can add a dramatic and instant effect within your garden. Big plants create an effect instantly that you would normally have to wait years to achieve.  They can make an empty space feel like established and mature. Larger plants can provide statement planting, screen unattractive problem areas as well as creating shade and shelter.


It is imperative that the location of all overhead and buried services and utilities are ascertained well in advance of planting, particularly in urban planting schemes. Deviation from planned positions or routes of services may prevent the use of specific planting location. The effects of root penetration or disturbance by root systems on services or other buildings works adjacent to planting areas should also be considered.

Before commencing work check the work area and remove any objects that may cause damage to the equipment. Check that the ground conditions are suitable i.e. not too wet, uneven or too steep. The topography and ground conditions of the working area should be assessed.  Hazards such as confined space, uneven ground, ditches, trees, cliffs or areas in danger of slide should be identified and avoided. When working on footways take into account pedestrians and take appropriate action to maintain a safe and secure work site.


When excavating the hole into which the tree will be placed it can either be excavated by hand or due to the overall size, depth and weight of root-balls it is advised the tree pit is excavated mechanically.

When excavating planting pits for root-balled stock at least 300 mm clearance should be allowed between the root-ball and the edge of the pit to facilitate staking and guying and to allow for an adequate amount of backfill between the root-ball and edge of pit. The depth of the root-ball should be measured and the pit excavated to a depth so that the point between the roots and the stem (the nursery mark) is level with the surrounding surface.

It is always an advantage to have all planting pits excavated before offloading the trees as they can be placed directly into the pit and reduce handling. But it is not advisable to leave excavated pits open for long periods as rain or ground water will collect in the bottom and it will be a hazard to operatives and public and should be adequately signed and guarded.


The Installation of the tree into its position is a period where accidents or damage to the tree are most likely to happen. Planting should be avoided in extreme wet or muddy conditions as slip trip and fall occurrences will be at its highest.
Organise the delivery of the trees to minimise manual handling e.g. use mechanised unloading or teamwork at a prepared site. When planting large stock where weight and bulk of root-ball creates difficulties in transporting trees around site, it is best to offload trees directly into the planting position. Do not attempt to carry too much and adjust the load to suit the plant size and site conditions. When introducing the root-ball to the prepared pit it must be settled firmly on the bottom and standing upright.


The reason for staking and guying trees is to allow the plant time to establish a sufficiently large and spreading root system to support the tree itself. The materials used for staking or guying, whether wood or metal must be of sufficient quality to last for several years without succumbing to rot or rust. Double staking and underground staking are the most common methods of securing trees and are detailed further below.

·       Double Staking

Each stake should be driven firmly into the ground until firm, one either side of the root-ball. After driving the stakes into position, the tops should be sawn off to equal heights with the sawn line at a slight angle to allow water to drain off the top of the stake. The cross spar should be nailed to the stakes with two galvanised nails and the stem of the tree fixed to the cross spar with rubber tree ties.

On completion of staking, the backfill material should be reintroduced a little at a time and each layer firmed until planting area is level with surrounding surface.

·       Underground Staking

Use three 50 mm x 50 mm pointed steel angle iron stakes, each 1 metre in length. Each stake must have a pre-board hole near the top to allow 5-7 mm multi strand wire to pass through. They should then be placed at regular spacing around the root ball and driven into the ground at slight angles towards the base of the root-ball.

On driving the stakes into the ground the tops of the stakes should be left 150 mm higher than the top of the root-ball. A single piece of multi-strand wire should be laced through the holes at the top of the stakes and pulled tight the loose ends of the wire should be overlapped and fixed firmly together with two U-bolts. The iron stakes should then be driven downwards as far as possible using a sledge hammer to tighten the wire and hold the root-ball in position.


After planting your semi mature trees will require a considerable amount of water until their roots are fully established.  At time of planting incorporate a plastic irrigation tube into the planting pit that ends at the bottom of the planting pit.  This will allow water to be directed quickly to the roots when irrigated.

For related articles click onto:
What is autumn colour?
What is the difference between a woodland and a forest?

Saturday 9 May 2015


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Who hasn't had one or more slip, trip or fall at sometime in our lives? They are usually very embarrassing and painful for a short while. 

A slip occurs when there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface.  Trips happen when your foot collides with an object and causes you to loose balance.  Falls usually a result of a slip or a trip, the most dangerous being falls from height.

The outcome of a slip trip or fall can be very serious. Over a third of all major injuries reported at work in the UK each year are caused by slips, trips and falls.

Causes of Slips
  • Little friction / traction available – people slip regularly on ice or wet grass areas and muddy areas
  • Wet or Oily surfaces
  • Spills
  • Weather hazards – frosty & wet conditions increase likelihood of slips
  • Loose or unanchored objects

Wear non slip safety footwear. Ensure extra care is taken when working on uneven ground and in slippery conditions.  Clean all spills immediately and watch out for damaged surfaces.

Causes of Trips
  • Clutter - ensure good housekeeping.  
  • Place tools in safe place when not in use and tidy up your work area. 
  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Where possible walk areas prior to works to spot uneven areas.
  • Getting on & off machinery

Keep all access routes clear to ensure a safe access route out of work area with no debris on it. Keep work areas clear by placing tools in safe places where they will not create a trip hazard.  Ensure access routes in storage areas are kept clear, do not climb over equipment to gain access. Walk on the centre of paths and not on kerb edges. Take care when moving from one area to another where levels change.Take care when dismounting vans & machinery ensuring parked on level ground, where kerbs involved take extra care dismounting.

For related articles click onto:

Thursday 7 May 2015


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Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is a disorder which affects the blood vessels, nerves, muscles and joints of the hand, wrist and arm which can become severely disabling if ignored. 

Its best known form is vibration white finger, which can be triggered by cold or wet weather and can cause severe pain in the affected fingers.Learn to recognise the signs of vibration injury and tell your GP about any symptoms.
Symptoms to look at for include:
  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers.
  • Pain, tingling or numbness in your hands, wrists and arms which may stop you sleeping.
  • Loss of strength in hands (you may be unable to pick up or hold heavy objects).
  • Inability to feel things with your fingers (you'll have difficulty picking up small objects such as screws or nails).    
  • Fingers go white, then blue, then red and are painful in the cold and wet, 
You are at risk if you regularly use hand-held powered tools such as concrete breakers, chipping hammers; sander, angle grinders; vibratory compactors; hammer drills, jigsaws, hedge trimmers, powered mowers, brush cutters and chainsaws.
It is your employer's responsibility to protect you against HAVS but symptoms will probably worsen if you continue to use high-vibration tools. 

In order to manage HAVs you could:
  • See if the task job could be done in a different way without using vibrating tools;
  • Use a low-vibration tool;
  • Always use the right tool for the job;
  • Check tools before using them to make sure they have been properly maintained and repaired to avoid vibration caused by faults and general wear;
  • Make sure cutting tools are kept sharp;
  • Reduce the amount of time you use the tool in one go
  • Avoid gripping or forcing the tools more than you have to;
  • Encourage good blood circulation by keeping warm and dry (wear gloves, hats, waterproofs)
  • Give up or cutting down on smoking as smoking reduces blood flow
  • Massage and exercise your fingers.

Monday 4 May 2015


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Noise is best defined as unwanted sound; it can be a low background sound or a loud agreeable or disagreeable sound. 

Noise is measured in decibels, running from a virtually silent 0dB(A) up to 120dB (A) or more for the very noisiest of places. For very loud short burst of sound a special scale is used to measure peak levels of noise. 

Although exposure to low or moderate levels of noise is unlikely to be very dangerous, exposure to loud noise over a prolonged period can impair hearing by damaging the fragile mechanism of the inner ear and destroying nerve cells.

Noise can cause hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent. People often experience temporary deafness after leaving a noisy place, although hearing recovers within a few hours. This is a sign that if you continue to be exposed to the noise your hearing could be permanently damaged. In some cases reduced hearing may result after only a few minutes or hours of exposure to a loud noise. In these situations normal hearing will return after a few hours away from the noise.

The effects of permanent hearing loss include speech becoming muffled so that it is harder to distinguish similar sounding words or to pick out a voice in a crowd. 

Permanent hearing damage can be caused in two ways, acute and chronic.  Acute hearing loss is caused immediately by sudden, extremely loud or explosive noise e.g. discharging a shotgun close to someone’s ear or cartridge operated machinery.  

Chronic hearing loss is caused by exposure over a gradual period of time and is sometimes referred to noise induced hearing loss, e.g. using a chainsaw over a period of time without using ear defenders. Because the hearing loss is gradual due to prolonged exposure it may only be when damaged caused by noise over the years combines with hearing loss due to ageing that people realise how deaf they have become. Hearing becomes muffled, conversations become difficult, difficulty using the phone or hearing the television.

Tinnitus is a condition that causes an intermittent or permanent ringing, buzzing or humming in the ears; this can cause severe concentration or sleep problems.

There are currently two action values set for workplace exposure to noise. The lower exposure action value is a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 80 dB and a peak sound pressure of 135dB. At the lower action values, employers must provide their employees with information, instruction and training on the risks posed by noise and how to protect themselves. They must also provide hearing protection for employees if they ask for it and provide health surveillance if the worker is at particular risk.

The Upper exposure action value is a daily or weekly average noise exposure of 85dB (A) and a peak sound pressure of 137dB. At the upper exposure action values, employees must be provided with hearing checks and employers must ensure hearing protection is worn by employees.   

Sunday 3 May 2015


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We all rush outside on a sunny day as it makes us feel good, but too much strong sunlight can be damaging to the skin. 

The problem is caused by the ultraviolet (UV) rays in strong sunlight. In summer, even on cloudy days, enough UV can filter through clothing to cause burning to occur. You should be particularly careful while you are out of doors in the summer in the three or four hours around the middle of the day as the sun is most intense at these times.

It is not simply sudden exposure while on holiday that is harmful. Even a tan that has been built up gradually can be harmful to health.   Too much sun will also speed up the ageing of your skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled. The most serious effect is an increased chance of skin cancer later in your life. 

Skin Cancer

People with white skin are at most risk of skin cancer and particular care should be taken if you have fair or freckled skin that doesn't tan, or burns before it tans,  red or fair hair and light coloured eyes or a large number of moles (over 100 in young people, or over 50 in older people).

You can reduce your exposure to UV by wearing suitable clothing. Ordinary clothing made from close-woven fabric, such as a long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans, will stop most of the UV. Don't be tempted to leave off your shirt; skin that hasn't seen the sun for month’s burns easily. A sun hat will shade your face and head, the areas which suffer most from sunlight.  Choose one with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and back of the neck.

Hats and other clothing are the best form of protection, but sunscreen creams and lotions can add useful protection for parts of your body that are not easy to shade from the sun.  Look for a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or more.

The first warning sign is often a small scabby spot which does not clear after a few weeks.  Look for changed or newly formed moles or any skin discolouration.  It is normal for moles to grow until you are about 18 years old, but as an adult you should show your doctor any moles which grow or change. Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.

Fortunately most of these signs will be harmless, but medical checks may be needed to be sure.  Even if a spot is cancerous, simple modern treatments can usually cure it and most don't spread to other parts of the body.  The smaller the spot the easier it is to cure.  So don't put off going to the doctor when you know you should.


Other problems with being outside during the summer, particularly on sunny days with little breeze, include dehydration.  Ensure that you have drinks with you at all times and drink on a regular basis to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can be a serious problem when out all day in direct sunlight and high temperatures. 

Sufferers may not realise, because feeling thirsty is not an early symptom. You may not realise that you are sweating in conditions where sweat is evaporating quickly and thus loosing body liquid. It maybe convenient not to have to pass urine during a working day, but it can also be an indication that you are becoming dehydrated

Symptoms of dehydration include headache, tiredness, malaise  (feeling of unease, mild sickness or depression) and muscle cramps in lower limbs and abdomen indicate more severe dehydration.

Ensure you take rest periods in the shade and drink plenty of appropriate drinks (fruit drinks and Water being the most important whilst tea, coffee and fizzy drink have a lesser effect). Wear appropriate clothing.

Heat exhaustion

Hyperthermia (heat exhaustion) is caused by over strenuous activity in hot and humid weather and is exacerbated by wearing unsuitable clothing, overeating and drinking alcohol. 

Symptoms are similar to dehydration but also include nausea, dizziness, fast and shallow breathing and possible fainting.  Mild cases treated by moving into shade, splashing with cold water, fanning and taking plenty of fluids. Severe cases of heat exhaustion can be fatal so seek medical attention straight away if symptoms worsen.