Strimmer and Clearing Saw Training
As a long term volunteer there are lots of benefits of doing such a role. One of these is official training in essential skills, beneficial when looking for paid work in conservation. Recently Greg (also a long term volunteer) and I had formal LANTRA (the Skills Council for land-based and environmental industries) training from instructor Dave Padley in use of a strimmer, brushcutter and clearing saw.
The strimmer and brushcutter training started with Dave talking about safety precautions and regulations when using the machinery, such as;
- making sure that you are always aware of people walking through the area you are working on (e.g stop and check you surroundings for people)
- the potential hazards in the area you are working in (e.g tripping, slippings)
- how to be sure people are aware that you are working with a dangerous machine (e.g warning signs).
He always talked about general and site specific risk assessments. It is necessary to have these completed before working with the tools, so that if anything does happen procedures and documentation is at hand to deal with the situation. It also ensures that you have taken all reasonable measures to reduce the risk involved when carrying out your work.
Furthermore, instructor Dave then went on to talk about how to keep the machine working efficiently, such as;
- making sure the air filter isn’t blocked,
- making sure you grease the heads (only on certain machines is this necessary)
- make sure the pull chord has sufficient tension so that the engine will kick in.
Dave then went onto show us how to change the head from strimmer to brushcutter, and how to maintain the brushcutter head so that machine won’t vibrate.
Down to the fun part… Using the machines!
Using a strimmer.
Dave asked Greg and I to show him how to start the machines and observed us using the machines with the strimmer head on.
After a while he told us better techniques that put less strain on our back.
He suggested moving on the balls of our feet. Sort of prancing from side to side instead of moving the machine via the hips (apparently its not all in the hips!).
Using a brushcutter.
Greg and I had less experience with this aspect so he showed us the best techniques to use when cutting through thicker vegetation such as scrub and brambles. It’s important not to lean back and put strain on your back when you bring the machine up to start the cutting process.
Greg and I have both gained a great deal from the training and were recently praised on our efficiency and productivity with the strimmer and brushcutter from Ranger Wayne.
On a more recent date we did the clearing saw training with Rangers Kate and Gareth. This machine is designed to cut through such things as gorse and small trees. Therefore it is a more heavy duty machine with a rotating metal blade which has angled teeth (similar to those on a chainsaw).
After a recap on Health and Safety aspects of using the machinery we went onto maintaining the clearing saw blade. Using a file to keep the teeth on the blade sharp and even, and a metal jig to reset the angle of each cutter.
Maintaining the blade ensures that when it cuts through the wood it doesn’t jam or get stuck in the cut. Using a blunt blade also requires applying unnecessary force. This wears out the machine, and the operator! Lastly, regularly maintaining the blade means that you are aware of any damage (ie. Cracks) which may make it unsafe to use.
Dave described the technique of using such a blade in great detail. He advised that you should stop and cut and area and then move onto to another area and stop, instead of moving at the same time like you would with a strimmer.
You should also cut one piece at a time and make sure you cut it from the right angle and with the right part of the blade, to make the gorse fall in a certain direction and so that you don’t get any kickback from the machine.
He also showed us how to cut a tree so that it has a hinge. You create a small cut into the tree from one side, then cut in from the opposite side just slightly above the other cut. This creates a hinge so you have control over which way the tree falls. On thicker trees you can cut a ‘gob’ (a wedge shaped section) out of the front of the tree, so that you have even more control over where it falls.
The clearing saw training was so recent that we haven’t had chance to practice what we learned but next week we will get a chance to use the clearing saw on plenty of gorse that needs removing and burning (another fun activity.)