Overhead Line Work » Line-Clearance Tree Trimming Operations

Line-clearance tree trimming
1910.269 Photo credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

See: 1910.269(r) on Line-Clearance Tree Trimming Operations

Line-clearance tree trimming refers to the pruning, trimming, repairing, maintaining, removing, or clearing of trees or the cutting of brush that is near (within 10 feet of) energized power lines. The standard 1910.269(r) addresses both personnel and equipment requirements. The line-clearance tree trimming equipment requirements in 1910.269(r)(2) through (8) apply to 1910.269 qualified employees and line-clearance tree trimmers who are clearing lines with brush clippers, sprayers, stump cutters, chain saws, backpack power cutters, climbing ropes, or safety saddles.

OSHA recognizes three different qualification levels for line-clearance tree trimmers:

  • Unqualified employees (that is, electrically unqualified)

  • 269-qualified employees

  • 1910.269 Photo credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    See: 1910.269(r) on Line-Clearance Tree Trimming Operations

  • Line-clearance tree trimmers

Unqualified employees must maintain the minimum approach distances of at least 10 feet from overhead power lines. (Work practices for these employees are covered by Subpart S, particularly 1910.333(c)(3). Section 1910.269 does not apply to tree trimming operations performed by unqualified employees.)

269-qualified employees must use their 269 specific skills and any other tree cutting procedures and training to safely trim trees. All of 1910.269 except paragraph (r)(1), which applies specifically to line-clearance tree trimmers, apply to work performed by these specialized workers.

The minimum approach distances (MAD) for unqualified workers are specified in 1910.333(c)(3)(i). These MADs start at 10 feet for systems 50kV and below and increase 4 inches for every 10 kV over 50 kV.

Line-clearance tree trimmers are workers that have received specialized training so they can work within 10 feet of energized power lines and equipment. These workers must:

  • Determine the voltage(s) of any lines that may pose a hazard before work begins. Alternatively, all lines must be considered as operating at the voltage of the line with the highest voltage. [See 1910.269(r)(1)(i)].

  • Ensure their body parts and any ladders, platforms, or aerial devices being used remain outside the minimum approach distance from any energized part. [See 1910.269(r)(1)(iii) and (v)].

  • Use only insulated tools and equipment to remove branches and limbs that are in contact with, or are within the minimum approach distance of, energized parts. [See 1910.269(r)(1)(iv)].

  • Not work during adverse weather conditions (high winds, icing, thunder and lightning, etc.) that make the work hazardous. Line-clearance tree trimming personnel may, however, begin work on storm restoration efforts in the aftermath of a storm (that is, in less severe weather conditions) if they have been trained in the special hazards involved with this type of work. These employees may perform work in any type of weather if the lines and circuits in the area have been deenergized per the requirements of 1910.269(m). Also see 1910.269(r)(1)(vi) and CPL 02-01-038, Appendix B, Item 16.

In addition to these specific operational requirements, line-clearance tree trimmers must also:

  • Be trained and certified in, and observed (at least annually) to be complying with, safety–related work practices and procedures (including emergency procedures).

  • Follow the medical and first aid provisions of 1910.269(b).

  • Be provided a job briefing before starting a job or if expected conditions change.

  • Properly wear approved PPE, including fall protection equipment, when needed.

  • Comply with material handling and mechanical equipment (for example, aerial lift) requirements outlined in 1910.269.

While line-clearance tree trimmers can work alone, a second line-clearance tree trimmer must be within voice range of the first line-clearance tree trimmer if: [See 1910.269(r)(1)(ii)].

  • The trimmer will approach within 10 feet of any conductor energized at more than 750 volts.

  • Parts are energized at more than 750 volts and branches or limbs are being removed from within the minimum approach distance.

  • Roping is necessary to remove branches or limbs from conductors or equipment.

Minimum Approach Distances
Insulated Protective Equipment (IPE)
Medical Services and First Aid
Hazard Assessments and Job Briefings
Fall Protection Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Use of Aerial Lifts