Home > Environment > Health and Safety Risks of Cutting Trees

Health and Safety Risks of Cutting Trees

Gardening is enjoyed by many

Although it is considered to be a rather gentle pastime, there is no denying that gardening is an activity fraught with risks and dangers. Machinery such as chainsaws and lawnmowers can cause serious injuries if used incorrectly or are not properly maintained. As with most recreational activities, it can be enjoyed safely by taking appropriate care in order to minimise and prevent incidents from occurring.

Plus of course there are those who are professionals and perform such tasks day-in, day-out as part of their work activities. Whether it is because they are likely to be using more powerful tools and tackling bigger jobs, or simply because they spend more time conducting such actions than a casual gardener, there is likely to be an increased risk of death or injury to professionals. However, this can be mitigated through proper health and safety training which teaches these individuals how to use equipment correctly and the risks which exist.

One prominent danger which exists for both professionals and amateur gardeners alike is the risk of injury or death when cutting trees. Whether it is cutting a few branches to get more light into the garden, or chopping down entire trees to clear an area for development, there is always the risk of serious accidents.

Primary Dangers to Health and Safety

Falling Trees/Branches
Branches which fall can cause injuries to people and damage to property

The risk of falling branches or entire trees is perhaps the most obvious. It surprises most people just how heavy large braches are, with some that fall in strong wind having to be cut up into smaller pieces where they fall as they cannot be shifted. Once you have tried to lift or move a heavy tree branch, you will understand how they can easily cause severe crush injuries or death were they to fall on someone. The person most at risk is the person doing the cutting, but trees or large branches can cover a wide area of ground so also at risk are other people nearby, who may not even know that the tree/branch is about to come down.

Falling From Height
Cutting trees at height increases the risks further

A second hazard associated with tree cutting is falling from height. As anyone who has completed a health and safety course such as the NEBOSH General Certificate will know, falling from height is an all-too-common yet preventable danger to health. It is also important to remember that it does not necessarily refer to people working hundreds of feet up either; it also applies to those just off the ground such as up stepladders for instance. As tree branches are up high, quite often a ladder or stepladder will need to be used to get up high enough to cut. The risk of falling branches when cut, coupled with having to balance whilst handling heavy chainsaws obviously creates a significant potential for some sort of accident which could endanger both the person off the ground as well as those below.

Dangerous Machinery and Equipment
Tree shredders and other machinery can be dangerous if not used correctly

Thirdly, the machinery itself poses a danger to health and safety. Machinery designed to cut through wood will easily do the same to any part of the human body which were to unfortunately get in its way. Chainsaws and branch shredders can cause severe lacerations or even result in the loss of entire limbs. Not only does the operator have responsibility for their own safety and well-being, but they need to be aware of other people in the area and how their actions may have an impact upon them. There is also the potential for children or animals to get onto the site and come into contact with the machinery or be in a location where heavy branches will be falling.

Other Risks

Bee or Wasp Stings
Disturbing a wasp nest whilst cutting trees can lead to trouble

Whilst the risks above are the most likely to cause serious injuries (or worse), there are also other factors which could negatively impact a person's health, safety or well-being. For instance, in some trees there may be a wasp's nest, which, if disturbed, could lead to a swarm and multiple stings. Aside from being painful to anyone, in some people this can lead to serious consequences to health such as anaphylactic shock. Depending upon the seriousness of the reaction and the number of stings received, it can in extreme cases result in a fatality, particularly if it is a small child or animal which has been stung.

Electric Shock
There is a risk of electric shock when working near power lines

There is also the risk of a falling tree or branch coming into contact with a power line, not to mention a person wielding a metal chainsaw near a cable running the risk of electricity arcing and giving them an electric shock. The shock by itself can be extremely dangerous, but could also cause a person to fall from height and hit the ground. Add to this mix a heavy and sharp piece of equipment and the potential for disaster is significant. Electrical safety is therefore essential for anyone using machinery, but especially when using chainsaws on trees near power lines.

Related Links

  • Environmental Section Index
  • NEBOSH Environmental Certificate Course Page

  • Delegate Login

    Log In

    Food Safety Courses

    New Online Food Safety Courses

    Level 1 and Level 2 online food safety courses available, with individual courses aimed specifically at those in the catering, retail and manufacturing industries.

    Click on the green "Online Courses" button above for more information regarding our online food safety courses and the other online health and safety training courses that we offer.

    NEBOSH General Pages

    More Info on our Most Popular Course

    The NEBOSH National General Certificate provides a wealth of information, with the syllabus covering a variety of different health and safety topics which are relevant to the vast majority of workplaces. The scope and respect which this NEBOSH qualification commands makes it one of the most popular and sought after of courses.

    For useful pages and articles about the NEBOSH General Certificate click here.

    Featured Articles

    NEBOSH Diploma e-Learning

    The lower cost and convenience of studying in your own time initially makes a NEBOSH Diploma look attractive by e-learning or distance learning formats. However, when it comes to learning enough to pass the assessments and actually achieving the qualification, it can often be an expensive false economy... Read Article

    Danger of Spending Money on a NEBOSH General Certificate Online Course

    Before spending any money on a NEBOSH General Certificate online course or distance learning option, it is essential to understand the dangers and realise that in most cases it can actually end up being more expensive in the long run... Read Article

    Latest Article

    Health and Safety Risks of Cutting Trees

    One prominent danger which exists for both professionals and amateur gardeners alike is the risk of injury or death when cutting trees. Whether it is cutting a few branches to get more light into the garden, or chopping down entire trees to clear an area for development, there is always the risk of serious accidents... Read Article


    To see if we currently have any vacancies for health and safety trainers or other office staff here at ATC Risk Management, please see our 'Current Vacancies' page by clicking here.