3 Tips For Trimming Trees Safely


Trimming benefits trees as much as plants, but how going about it differs for both. Check out our article on ensuring tree trimming doesn’t cause any harm.

To help plants grow, you have to cut them. Strange as it sounds, trimming branches is the only way to prevent an infection from spreading or to induce the plant to grow in a particular direction. When done right, trimming can make any plant bloom more beautifully than before.

The same idea applies to trees, though trimming them requires more than just a pair of nippers. The work area is several feet off the ground, likely near some power lines, with everything and everyone in the vicinity at risk of damage or injury from felled branches.

Given such dangers, safe tree trimming shouldn’t just be concerned with your safety and that of others. So consider these tips before trimming that old oak in your yard.

chain saw cutting tree limb

3 Tips For Trimming Trees Safely

1) Identify Possible Risks

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) tree-trimming manual for the landscaping industry defines three significant safety risks during tree trimming.

  • Electrocution

Any trimming activity done within 10 feet of live wires should be left to qualified personnel. Beyond that distance, OSHA advises keeping a distance of 10 to 35 feet. Even in a blackout, scheduled or not, always assume there’s still electricity running along the lines.

  • Fall injury

Whether or not you do rock climbing as a hobby, having adequate fall protection is crucial. It doesn’t take a lot of force to break bones. A tree climbing harness is one of many must-have tools for staying high up on the tree safely. 

  • Struck by branch

Tree trimming is no place to let your guard down. A falling tree branch can seriously hurt or even prove fatal to the trimmer or passersby below. You can even be legally liable for the accident, which can cost a fortune to settle.

Because of the vast clearance it requires, tree trimming is rarely a one-person job. Apart from the one doing the trimming, it must have another person on the ground to cordon off the drop zone. That’s why most people leave it to professional services. 

2) Be Fully Equipped

Assuming you’re a do-it-yourselfer reading this, you’ll need more than just the bare minimum of equipment. An equipment checklist should contain the following:

  • Climbing gear

As mentioned earlier, a tree climbing harness is just one of many necessary tools. It’s part of a system that ensures a person’s safety while high up in the tree, including ropes, spikes, and saddles.

  • Cutting tools

Chainsaws are the typical cutting tool for cutting branches, but they’re by no means the only ones you need. For removing smaller branches, hand saws will suffice. If going up the ladder doesn’t suit your fancy, pole saws can reach up to 20 feet from the ground.

Shears and pruners are the most common tools in small-scale tree trimming, though they see use in large-scale ones. They’re ideal for cutting small but thick branches.

  • Protective equipment

Know that chainsaws are noisy and only take two minutes of use to induce hearing loss. If you plan to use a chainsaw, earplugs and earmuffs should be on the list. 

Even in tree trimming that doesn’t warrant a chainsaw, other protective equipment does. Safety goggles protect your eyes from sawdust and splinters, while hard hats protect your head from falling branches or debris.

  • First aid kit

While protective gear helps mitigate the possibility of injury, it can’t eliminate that risk. Therefore, it pays to have a fully stocked first aid kit in case of cuts, bruises, or broken limbs. Check out this guide by the American Red Cross to know what a kit should contain.

man trimming tree branch

3) Use the three-cut method

A crucial aspect of tree trimming is controlling where the cut sections will fall. To help with this, OSHA recommends cutting a branch at three locations.

  • The first is an undercut at least eight inches from the branch collar.
  • The second is above but slightly to the left of the undercut.
  • The third is straight down the section adjacent to the branch collar.

You may need more than three cuts to remove a branch, significantly larger ones safely. This way, the branches will fall to the ground in lighter sections instead of one heavy slab. It can also stop the branch from taking parts of the bark and opening the whole tree to infection or infestation.


There’s no question that trees benefit from good trimming as much as plants. However, trimming that comes at the cost of a nasty shock or fall isn’t worth the effort. It may be a better idea to give a tree-trimming service a call, but if you insist on doing it yourself, keep these safety tips in mind.

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