Using a Brush Cutter Safely

Brush cutting

Most of us have used a weeder or a brush cutter before.

However, we all need to stop and think about the tools and how we use them on and for our trail sections, and this is as good a time to do it as any.

Gasoline-powered brush cutters are a blessing for us. They let us really cut away the undergrowth and grass as we maintain our trail sections, and do it quickly and efficiently. My intent here is to remind us all of some basic safety factors as well as to describe some things to do when using a brush cutter.

Safety First, Last—Always

Safety is always Job #1. Some of my thoughts about this are:

Personal Protection

Wear Proper Clothing

You should always wear:

  • A long-sleeved shirt.
  • Long pants.
  • Leather hiking boots.
  • Heavy-duty garden or work gloves.

Use Your Personal Protective Equipment.

These include:

  • Safety helmet (visor, ear muffs).
  • Heavy-duty garden or work gloves.
  • Leather hiking boots.
  • Personal First Aid kit.

Situational Awareness

Always remember those who are hiking your trail section!

Hikers will try and pass you by as if you're a stationary obstacle—like a boulder in the trail or a downed tree—without regard to the power tool in your hands, the noise it emits, and the ear muffs covering your ears.

Evil Doers

  • You will probably encounter wasps, bees, hornets, and yellow jackets at some time while you're using the brush cutter.
  • The first indication you’ll have is that extremely unpleasant sensation when the stinger hits the skin.
  • There's really only one thing to do: turn off the machine and run! If you're allergic to bee stings, you should always have first aid material in your kit, whether over-the-counter stuff or prescription medication (epinephrine) provided by your doctor.
    • If you carry tobacco, as I do, take some, wet it, and place it over the stings, secured by a band-aid.
    • It works for me.

Don’t Be A Loner.

  • Have a helper or companion with you when you’re using the brush cutter.
  • Your companion may, for instance, spot that timber rattler long before you’ll hear it (especially when you're running the tool).
  • He or she may also be able to tackle hikers before they try to blow right by you.

A Tired, Hungry, and Thirsty Operator is An Accident Waiting to Happen.

  • Always remember others are in or near your work area!
  • Carry plenty of water as well as some snacks.
  • Take as many breaks as you need—in fact, take more than you think you need.
  • The helmet alone will cause you to lose water, profusely, through your sweat.
  • The vibration from the brush cutter and the constant swinging motion you make as you cut will tire you out.

Always remember others are in or near your work area!

Before You Start

Please review the Operator’s Manual for the machine you use—each machine is different, and each is similar. Here, I've described some of the tasks common to the Stihl brush cutter I use.

Learn more about Operating a Brush Cutter

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