When temperatures start to climb, so do the number of items on our to-do lists – especially those waiting for us in the great outdoors. From pulling weeds to planting flowers, there’s plenty of work to do to keep our properties looking great throughout the summer and early fall.

Sometimes, landscape maintenance could include trimming trees, whether for aesthetics or safety. If you’re thinking about trimming a tree on your property, there are several things you should keep in mind to keep yourself and others safe before, during and after the job. The most common tree-trimming accidents are electrocution, falls and being struck by tree limbs. Here are some tips to help you avoid accidents and other dangerous situations.  

Perform a job hazard analysis

A job hazard analysis a technique that will guide you toward identifying and avoiding potential safety issues that might occur during your work. By dividing the job into separate steps; identifying hazards for each step; reviewing the list of hazards with others working with you; and identifying ways to reduce or eliminate hazards, you’ll better position yourself for a successful and safe project.

While performing such an analysis may seem overboard for a “simple” DIY project, doing so could help you uncover hidden dangers and help you make smarter, more informed decisions during your work. Things to watch for:

  • Cracked or weakened branches
  • Saw position (to avoid cutting yourself)
  • Cars and power lines nearby

If the work requires climbing the tree, it’s probably best to call in a professional. Check out the state of Michigan’s job hazard analysis training guide – which includes a printable form – to get started. 

Wear protective equipment.

While light tree-trimming may seem straightforward, several variables, including the tree’s health and the direction it’s leaning, wind speed and equipment used to perform the job, can create unexpected – often dangerous – situations. It’s extremely important that you prepare as best you can for these scenarios by wearing proper protective equipment, including:

  • Leather gloves and long sleeves – to protect your hands and arms from tree bark, branches and limbs.
  • Eye protection – extremely important to not only guard against saw dust and debris, but also to protect your eyes from branches and leaves during trimming and transport.
  • Proper footwear – wear shoes with slip-resistant soles.
  • Hearing protection – if you’re using a chainsaw or other noisy machinery, don’t forget to guard your ears against hearing damage, which can easily be caused by proximity to loud motors.


Beware of power lines; don’t trim trees near power lines

Power lines running between poles

The power lines that run between utility poles – and any trees growing near them – are DTE’s responsibility to trim. If one is creating a public safety hazard near your place, report it to DTE. If trees are growing near the lines, but aren’t causing an immediate safety issue, they’ll be trimmed in accordance with our ongoing maintenance schedule. Do not attempt to trim these trees.  

Power line running from a utility pole to your home

While trees growing near your service drop – your home’s connection to the energy grid – are your responsibility, we strongly recommend you contact a professional tree-trimming service to complete any job that requires trimming near these wires. Service drops carry high-voltage electricity to your home; while they may not be as high up in the air as other lines, they’re just as dangerous. Do not risk your life by attempting to trim a tree near service drop or any other power line.

Carry ladders and other tools horizontally

It’s extremely important that you stay 20 feet away from power lines and anything they may touch. If you’re trimming trees – or doing anything else that requires a ladder or other equipment that could reach a power line if it’s extended vertically – carry your tools and equipment horizontally to avoid accidental contact with overhead power lines. Service drops redirect high-voltage electricity from the energy grid to your home. Touching it with a conductive object, such as a ladder, can turn your body into an electrical circuit, which will likely cause fatal injuries. When you set your ladder up, ensure it won’t touch a power line if it tips over or falls for any reason.

Don’t drink and trim

Some people are tempted to imbibe their favorite adult beverage during yard work, particularly during the summer months, but if you’re using potentially dangerous equipment save the drinks for afterward.

Visit dteenergy.com/wiresafety for more information to help you stay safe around electricity.