Why workers should take wood chippers seriously

Updated Feb 25, 2019

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Chippers are dangerous machines and getting caught usually means no escape

The accident: A 33-year-old crew member is working on a two-acre jobsite early in the afternoon. The crew member is loading tree limbs into a chipper while his co-workers bring branches from around the jobsite. While the other workers are around the perimeter of the property looking for limbs, they hear an unusual sound. The supervisor on the jobsite investigates, discovering the lone crew member’s remains at the chipper. The supervisor immediately calls the Emergency Medical Service (EMS). The worker is pronounced dead on the scene with speculation that he either lost balance while feeding material into the chipper, or was leaning across the feed table to push trimmings into the feed chute when his gloves were caught by the feed rollers.

The bottom line: Crew members should never work alone when operating a wood chipper. One worker should be loading the material and another should be stationed near an emergency shut-off device. Additionally, crew members need to be properly trained on how to use the wood chipper, as well as wear proper clothing and safety equipment.

Additional safety tips:

  • Never reach into a chipper while it is operating.
  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothing around a chipper.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety instructions.
  • Use earplugs, safety glasses, hard hats and gloves.
  • Workers should be trained on the safe operation of chipper machines.
  • Always supervise new workers using a chipper to ensure that they work safely and never endanger themselves or others.
  • Protect yourself from contacting operating chipper components by guarding the infeed and discharge ports, and preventing the opening of the access covers or doors until the drum or disc completely stops.
  • Prevent detached trailer chippers from rolling or sliding on slopes by chocking the trailer wheels.
  • Maintain a safe distance (i.e., two tree or log lengths) between chipper operations and other work/workers.
  • When servicing and/or maintaining chipping equipment (i.e. “unjamming”), use a lockout system to ensure that the equipment is de-energized.
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