Safety is key
Growing up in the tree care industry I became familiar with its inherent dangers at a young age. As I got older and started to operate bucket trucks and learned to climb, people would often comment "Wow! That's a dangerous job!" It certainly is.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, is that stump grindings can be more dangerous than some of the other aspects of a tree removal. Here are some things to look out for when removing your own stump, or when hiring a stump removal professional.
While operating a stump grinder, it is important to wear hearing protection, but that same protection greatly diminishes your situational awareness. For example, a huge portion of stump removal injuries occur when the stump grinder is left with the cutter wheel engaged, and the operator steps away to use a rake or a blower. They often do not realize how close to the cutter wheel they are (due to the hardhat that obscures vision and muffles sound with built-in earmuffs) and take one step too many - into the rotating cutter wheel. The cutter wheel should never be left engaged when the operator leaves the stump grinder - in fact, the safest way to leave a stump grinder is to idle the machine down, disengage the cutter wheel, turn the machine off, and when on an incline, chock the tires.
Another common injury is due to flying debris. Many novice (and unfortunately some veteran) operators do not take the proper precautions in regards to flying debris. Glasses and earmuffs are not enough. My own father suffered a nearly fatal head wound while operating a stump grinder when a rock hit his head with nearly the speed of a bullet. At Miles Stump removal, we use only ANSI approved impact resistant hardhats with a safety visor, in conjunction with ANSI approved impact resistant safety glasses and earmuffs.
Along with flying debris injuring the operator, there is also the risk of striking pedestrians and property with debris. A stump grinder operator must always be aware of his or her surroundings, and take the proper precautions. For example, at Miles Stump Removal, we use a custom made, portable fencing system that minimizes the risk of flying debris striking pedestrians, windows, cars, etc, by containing the majority of the debris in a small area.
Furthermore, on sites with uneven ground, there is the risk of the stump grinder tipping over, crushing the operator. Some stump grinders weigh over 6,000 pounds; more than most pickup trucks. This is easily enough to seriously injure or kill an unaware operator. Stump grinders should always be operated from the top side of the hill, so that if the machine rolls over, it rolls away from the operator.
In conclusion, it is incredibly important while removing a stump to have constant situational awareness, and to use the right equipment and practices to ensure your safety, and those around you.