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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Follow Safety Procedures When Pruning

LAS CRUCES -- Safety should come first, whether you're pruning one backyard fruit tree or a whole commercial pecan orchard.


"Pruning involves many potential hazards, from eye injuries, to falls, to cuts," said Craig Runyan, farm safety specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "Wearing proper clothing, using sharp tools, working alone and avoiding power lines will reduce the risks."

Eyes are especially vulnerable to injuries from pointed branches, vines and twigs. Runyan recommends wearing safety glasses because regular eyeglasses or sunglasses don't provide enough protection for the sides of the face.

Shoes or boots with a good tread can help provide traction on loose or slippery ground. Falling may cause back injuries or wounds from tools. Steel-toed footwear provides extra protection.

Never carry tools in your pockets because you can easily injure yourself in a fall, Runyan said. Wear a leather holster or pouch to hold small hand tools.

To protect hands, always wear gloves when pruning. Gloves provide a better grip on tools and prevent cuts and scrapes from sharp branches.

Make sure hand and power tools are well sharpened. "A safe tool is a sharp tool," Runyan said. Sharp saws and cutters require less stamina and reduce fatigue. Take several breaks while pruning and use the rest time to sharpen your tools, he suggested.

Pruning alone allows you to pay attention to your own work without being distracted by others, Runyan said. "You may not see when someone else is jeopardizing your safety."

High-reach saws and trimmers pose an obvious hazard when used around electrical power lines. Runyan recommends that orchard managers mark areas where power lines run through trees. "This alerts workers to avoid these areas or to be careful and look up around power lines."

Homeowners can call the local power company for help with pruning around power lines. "Almost all power companies have a safety officer, and many companies in New Mexico will arrange to come out and prune your trees where they run through power lines," Runyan said.