There is little over a month to go before the hedge-cutting season restarts, with the permitted time frame opening on 1 September and ending on 29 February.

Hedge-cutting is not allowed during the closed period under Good Agricultural and Environment Conditions cross-compliance legislation as it coincides with bird nesting and rearing seasons.

Roadside trimming and loping of overhanging branches is permitted during the closed period if they are causing an obstruction to road safety.

How to safely operate hedge cutters

Attention must be paid at all times when operating hedge cutters as the smallest lapse in concentration has the potential to cause serious damage to people and property.

When operating on public roads or private land, all necessary precautions must be taken to ensure that both the public and operators are safe.

ESB Networks’ top 10 safety tips

1 Keep an eye out for any damaged parts on the machine that could affect it while in operation. Be aware of overhead wires at all times.

2 Appropriate signage and warning lamps must be used at all times to notify oncoming vehicles when working on public roads.

3 Keep people a safe distance away from circular saws when they are in operation as they are highly dangerous.

4 All windows in the tractor should be cleaned routinely to ensure maximum visibility at all times.

5 Guards should be placed around the tractor cab to protect it from flying debris.

6 Before beginning work, take a moment to consider ground conditions and the gradient/slope of the ground.

7 Be conscious of overhead wires that may have dropped into dense foliage of the hedge or large ditches.

8 Hedge cutters must be appropriately matched with a suitable tractor. A large hedge cutter should not be fitted on a small tractor as it could potentially cause an accident.

9 If unsure about wires or perceived dangers close by, stop and assess the situation.

10 Always have an ESB emergency contact number in the tractor in the event of an accident.

Safe practice

The ESB points out there should be a 10m safe area when hedge-cutting around poles to reduce danger. Cutting hedges within 10m of a pole hugely increases the risk of coming into contact with wires.

Fallen or damaged electricity lines are extremely hazardous and carry the risk of causing fatal injuries and should never be approached.

Nobody should climb an electricity pole, attempt to touch any objects that could be entangled in overhead wires or allow anything they are holding to come into contact with overhead wires.

People should be cautious at all times when working around electricity poles and wires as they can be lethal.

ESB Networks said the general public should contact them immediately if they notice any possible risks in relation to tree-felling and hedge-cutting. This could be scorched branches or branches which are overhanging or growing above electricity lines.

The ESB also stresses that you should never, under any circumstances, touch an electricity wire or anything that might be in contact with it including tractors, trailers etc. The ESB should be immediately contacted on 1850 372 999.

Cutting on enclosed land

The biggest danger of cutting on enclosed land is the risk of hitting electricity wires or poles and also flying debris.

Flying debris can cause serious harm to the tractor and in some cases the operator if the correct safety guards or windows are not in place. Any bystanders within close proximity could also be severely injured from debris flying off the hedge cutter.

Importance of PTO safety on hedge cutters

With most hedge cutters being PTO-driven it is imperative that safety is the operator’s number one priority. PTOs are very dangerous and can cause horrific injuries.

Protective guards on machines should also be intact and in good working order. The machine should be regularly checked to ensure it is safe to operate. Any loose parts, guards or chains could potentially result in an accident occurring.