Tree Safety & Removal - 10 Things You Should Know

Removing a tree is a lot more complex than many realize. There are numerous safety concerns - falling branches and power lines, for example - as well as legal issues. Here are 10 things you should know about tree removal and safety:

There's a lot to know concerning safe tree removal.There's a lot to know concerning safe tree removal.
  • Municipal bylaws. Your town or city has its own laws regarding trees and landscaping. Always look into these before starting any sort of removal or pruning process. Also, make sure you look up who is responsible for removing the tree. In many cases, only property owners can trim or remove the trees on their yard unless instructed to do so by the government. If you don't own the property with the tree, taking the task upon yourself could land you in hot water.
  • If you need a permit. Some cities or states require you to obtain a tree removal permit before taking action. It's possible you're liable for a fine by not obtaining one beforehand. 
  • When to prune. Most people think the best time to trim trees is in the winter. Trimming in the heat is a nightmare, and they assume they'll be too busy over the summer. In reality, the best time to prune depends on your objective. Winter pruning results in an outpouring of new growth during the spring. If this is what you want, wait until the coldest part of winter is over so your tree is truly dormant. On the other hand, trimming trees in the summer helps direct and slow their growth. By pruning, you reduce the number of leaves receiving sunlight and sending energy down to the roots.
  • When not to prune. Generally, the worst time to start tree pruning is during the fall. Most have a hard time healing during this season, and fall is when decay fungi spread most of their spores.
  • Safety concerns. Gravity, decaying wood, faulty equipment and power lines all pose a threat to your health and safety. Hitting a power line can be deadly, and dying trees are particularly unstable since they decay from the inside out. Make sure to be careful when working around these hazards.
  • The difference between a tree trimmer, an arborist and a landscaper. These three professions may seem interchangeable to the layperson, but they're very different. A landscaper cares for the entire yard and handles tasks like irrigation, mulching and overall lawn care. A tree trimmer's job is exactly as it sounds, but a certified arborist is a little different. Arborists have years of experience and education regarding tree biology and maintenance. They understand tree health and pruning standards, are qualified to identify diseases and insect infestations, and often handle dangerous equipment. Most arborists have liability insurance as well.
  • When to call an arborist. A certified arborist can handle nearly any tree-related issue you might have. They can safely remove a tree stump, cut dead branches to promote growth, and keep your trees healthy. What's more, arborists prioritize tree safety, and some can also help with trees that are precariously close to power lines. Arborists also save a lot of headaches, as you don't have to go through the process of obtaining a removal permit or finding out about underground hazards yourself.
  • What's beneath your tree. If stump removal is your concern, you or your arborist need to know about any sewer lines, gas lines or buried cables that could interfere with or be damaged during the removal process. 
  • What safety equipment you need. Proper tree safety equipment includes gloves, non-slip boots, a stable ladder, a safety harness and a hard hat. You should also wear hearing and leg protection, a face shield and safety glasses if working with or near a chainsaw.
  • What your insurance policy says. Not all insurance policies cover preventative tree removal or removing fallen trees that didn't damage property. In addition, your car insurance, not your homeowner's insurance, is most likely to pay for tree damage to your car.