Before considering going out to cut your hedges it is important to take time and familiarise yourself with the risks involved so that you are firstly aware of them and secondly can take steps to avoid injury or incident.
The greatest risk of injury comes from contact with the machine’s moving parts, and in particular:
Entanglement on inadequately guarded power take-off shafts.Contact with the cutter head parts, drive belts or pulleys.Being struck by the cutting head or machine arm as it moves.
Other risks associated with tractor-mounted hedge cutters can include:Being hit by material or other debris ejected by the cutters.Being hit by component parts ejected from the machine.Coming into contact with overhead electricity power lines.The tractor overbalancing when the machine arm is extended.Injection of high-pressure oil from damaged hydraulic hoses or couplings.Being struck by the machine overbalancing when unhitched from the tractor.Road traffic accidents due to collisions with other vehicles either directly or from debris on the road.
To avoid potential injury or accidents, the following points should be applied.Operators should receive adequate instructions and training to enable them to use the machine safely.The operator should read, understand and follow the instruction manual.Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when hitching or unhitching the machine from the tractor. Do not stand in any position where you may be at risk of being crushed, eg in the area between the back of the tractor and the hedge cutter.Make sure the machine is left in a stable position when it is removed from the tractor, using any stands or props provided, and securing it further if necessary.Do not carry out maintenance on the hedge cutter with the cutting arm/dipper arm raised, unless the arm is properly supported.Check the tractor is at least the minimum weight recommended by the hedge cutter manufacturer. Use ballast as necessary.Inspect the hedge before starting to cut and remove wire, bottles, cans and other debris. Check for any telegraph/electricity pole stays. Damaged stays should be reported to the relevant organisation.Use appropriate warning signs to alert others to the hedge cutting operation where necessary.Work at a safe speed, taking account of the conditions such as the terrain, proximity to the road, or obstacles.Use safe practices when work needs to be done near overhead power lines.Clear up debris after cutting if it could be a hazard to others, ie on the public road.
It is extremely dangerous to carry out any work on a machine while it is under power. The most important safety measure is to follow the “safe stop” procedure before dismounting, or carrying out any maintenance or adjustments, including dealing with a blockage or other problem:Handbrake on.Controls neutral.Stop engine.Remove key.
Check that all guards and other protective devices are in place before starting work. Don’t use the machine if the guards are missing or damaged. Make sure:The power take-off (PTO) shaft is fully enclosed in a guard along its entire length from the tractor power take-off to the power input connection on the hedge cutter.The tractor rear and sides are fitted with protective glazing, metal mesh or polycarbonate guards of a size/strength specified by the hedge cutter manufacturer to protect the operator against thrown debris or other projectiles.Tractor mesh/polycarbonate guards are suitable for the job, undamaged and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.All hedge cutter guards and safety devices are in position, correctly fitted and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.Flails and their fixing heads are the right size for the task. These should be of the type recommended by the manufacturer, securely attached, and should not be missing or damaged.Hydraulic pipes are carefully routed to avoid damage.Machine fittings and couplings are in good condition.