Being conscientious of safety while operating stump grinders is important. Injuries resulting from the use of stump grinders can include fractures, loss of limb or even death. Make sure that your crew knows the proper safety procedures before they head out into the field. The following are insights from J.R. Bowling, vice president of sales and marketing for Rayco Mfg. about safety while operating stump grinders.
Prepping the property
Before even getting to work with the stump grinder, it’s important to assess the property on which you will be removing the stump. Make sure that the stump is clear of debris.
- Remove large rocks or other objects from around the stump
- Look for buried objects that could present danger such as buried metal, chain or fencing
- Interview the property owner and ask about underground obstacles such as utilities, sprinkler lines, gas pipes, property markers or anything else that could be below ground
Once you’ve checked for debris and buried objects, position the stump cutter, making sure the machine is stable and the operator has good footing and a clear path to exit the work area. If working on a slope, position the machine and operator below the stump on the downhill side. However, operators should avoid working on steep slopes. No job is so important that an operator need risk injury or machine damage trying to remove a stump.
Also be mindful of the surroundings to make sure there will not be property damage or injury to persons if debris is thrown from the cutting action. When possible, use a barrier to backstop any thrown debris from the cutting action.
Safety features to look for
Stump grinders of today have many safety features incorporated into their design. Among those are safety curtains that prevent flying debris being thrown towards the operator, and guarding around the cutter wheel and other moving parts. Some are equipped with emergency shutdown devices and/or operator presence devices. The most important things an operator can do to protect himself is to:
1.) Wear PPE to protect hearing and shield from flying debris
2.) Always make sure the cutter wheel is turned off and the wheel has stopped turning before leaving the control station
3.) Make sure there is good footing to avoid falling into or under the machine while in operation
Many Rayco stump cutter models feature a photoelectric eye that shuts off the cutter wheel if the operator steps away from the control station with the cutter wheel running.
Training your crew
Make sure operators know the machine and have learned how to operate it properly under close supervision. Train operators on the basic general principles of stump removal and on the specific operation of the stump cutter they are using. Any stump cutter operator should read and understand the machine’s operator manual before operating the machine.
Often, injuries occur when it’s late in the day and/or when workers are trying to hurry through their tasks. Precautions need to be taken to ensure safety practices are followed and don’t become lax during these times. Operating a stump cutter requires concentration and focus in order to maintain safety practices under all conditions.