By their very nature, these tools are built for power, which is why a commitment to best practice is essential for ensuring operator safety
Arborists can be under strict time pressures, but when using a stump grinder, which are among the most powerful of machines, there should be no cutting corners. This is why before starting work, it is essential that someone experienced, whether they are using the equipment or not, makes a number of thorough checks before any grinding begins.
These should include within the site:
- Check the area surrounding the stump for any large rocks or partially buried materials that could create hazards
- Ask the landowner for information about the site – could there be underground cabling, water or gas pipes?
- Is the land level? If it is steep, then don’t risk it, use a remote controlled grinder
It is also essential that the person making the assessment is fully aware not only of the stump grinder operator’s ability, but of those who are going to be in the vicinity of the work Inexperienced workers may stand too close and could be injured by the wood chips which are thrown up. Some arborists may need to hire in equipment and in this instance, it is essential to be fully briefed on how it works and the emergency shut down procedures. If someone is using your machine and a sub-contractor has been engaged, be sure they know all the ins and outs, even if they claim to have plenty of experience. If there is an accident, then apart from the individual affected, the implications for the business owner can be extremely serious. If the operator feels pressurised to get a job done quickly – or it is towards the end of the day and they want to get the work finished – then this is when errors are most likely to happen. For this reason, emphasising that safety is the number one priority and being around later in the day could do much to encourage safe working. Equally, operators must have proper breaks so that they can maintain concentration.
Need to learn more?
A stump grinder course, such as those accredited by Lantra Awards, and available at many UK-wide centres, takes just a day. These will encompass the essential theory and hands-on skills that are a legal requirement under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER). If you only have one operator and have a growing amount of stump grinding business, then such training is a must. Courses are available both for beginners and those requiring a refresher.
There is also some useful reading courtesy of the HSE, in the online leaflet, AFAG606 Mobile stump grinders. Apart from useage guidance, this also reminds employers and operators of the need for correct PPE. This includes a safety helmet, hearing and eye protection, protective boots, gloves with reinforced palms and fingers and non-snag outer clothing. In the case of darker mornings or evenings, high- visibility clothing may also be appropriate. It also goes without saying that the crew must be equipped with a suitable first-aid kit to include a large wound dressing and hand cleaning materials.
Toro – getting the job done
Manufacturer Toro provides three stump grinders. The range offers the manoeuvrable SGR-13 Handlebar Stump Grinder, which is the smallest in the line-up, being compact and lightweight. It is particularly suited to accessing stumps in hard to reach, tight spaces, a necessity for many arborists working in built-up areas. The innovative grinder teeth sheer rather than shed, for a much smoother and more efficient stump cutting experience.
Next, the STX-26 is the smaller of the Toro STX range of stump grinders. Much like the SGR-13, it has the same type of grinder teeth to sheer rather than shred for added efficiency. It boasts a ‘Dingo’ TX-style control system, which provides two easy to operate levers, as well as an armrest to reduce operator tiredness. A further feature is the ‘Intelli-Sweep’ cutter head control feature. This automatically slows the sweep speed of the cutting head based on the load of the wheel. With speeds exceeding 4mph, the STX-26 provides power and increased productivity with a light footprint.
The STX-38 is the largest and most powerful of the stump grinders from Toro, but despite being built to deliver durability and advanced performance, it remains easy to operate through the STX-control system with two levers. Like the STX-26, it features a zero-turn steering system to offer control even in the toughest conditions. With a low centre of gravity and tracked drive system, the STX-38 has good traction and grip on sloped terrain. With a fully hydraulic cutting operation, there is no risk of belts breaking or slipping and no need for tension adjustments and in conclusion, with a ground speed of 4.5mph, there is even greater productivity.