Tree trimming is dangerous, hire an expert

EVANSTON — Tree trimming is consistently ranked as one of the five most dangerous jobs in the world.  Very few places in the U.S. require training or certification for the job. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a hazard warning and strongly advises homeowners not to do their own tree trimming, but to let a professional do the work.

Troy and Trish Carlin have been in the tree trimming business for nearly 30 years. They first began in Ogden, Utah, with a small company called “Little C. Tree Service,” and then started “Out On A Limb” 10 years ago. The couple lives in Bloomington, Idaho, near Bear Lake. Their business covers a wide area including the Wyoming communities of Evanston, Bridger Valley, Green River, Rock Springs, Big Piney, Jackson, Pinedale, Eden and Farson, along with the areas around Logan, Utah, and Bear Lake. They employ 11 men and women full-time and some part-time. They have an on-call business, 24/7, and work year-round.

In the beginning, Trish helped in the field with cleaning up brush and helping however she could without getting up in the trees. Now she handles the office and accounting side of the business and enjoys spending time with their grandchildren. Troy said Trish’s job is the difficult one and it is important to him and the business.

“I can hardly break away when I am with the grandkids now, though,” Trish said. “They’re the best.”

Troy said he enjoys the business. “The best part is meeting new people and hearing their stories,” he said. He also said the different situations he faces are a challenge and that makes it fun.  

“He is so good at this job,” Trish said. “I’ve seen him look at a branch and tell me where it is going to land, and it does. He is amazing.”

The tree trimming industry takes experience, knowledge and the proper equipment. The equipment includes: bucket trucks, chippers, chain saws, stump grinders, insulators for utility lines and all have to be OSHA approved. Liability insurance and workers compensation fees are very high.  

Troy and Trish will provide answers to many common questions regarding trees and they give free estimates and bids. The best time to trim fruit trees is before they bud in early spring or in late fall. With any flowering tree they only take out about one-third of the branches and cut sucker sprouts. If you cut more than a third, you can shock the tree and damage it.  

One common question is what to do when a tree encroaches on a neighbor’s property. Troy’s answer is that any time a tree’s branches are hanging over a property line the neighbor has the right to trim the branch off. “The best thing would be to talk to the owner of the tree and work together for a solution,” he added.

If a tree has a lot of dead branches in it, they should be cut, as wind gusts can knock them out and cause serious property damage, personal injury or even death. Heavy snow and ice in the winter can also cause branches to break. Any liability for damages would fall on the property owner.  

Troy said the worst trees to plant close to a house are cottonwoods, willows and poplars. People like them because they grow fast but they are brittle and get diseases and can be messy, he said. Pine and spruce trees tend to fall over when they get lots of water from lawn sprinklers and their roots become too shallow. 

For hardy shade trees, Troy recommends maples and locust. He said he will give advice on what to plant and all nurseries do the same. He discourages planting tamarisk (an invasive species) or Russian olive trees. He has done land clearings and also trims hedges and shrubs. He can show people how to plant, fertilize and where to put a drip line for trees. 

The Carlins stressed the importance of safety and relying on trained experts when the need arises.

“Don’t trim a tree yourself,” Troy said. “Hire a seasoned professional. Sometimes people will get a bid from us and then they decide to do it themselves. I’ve seen people standing in the back of a pickup and cutting on a tree and they have no experience or knowledge of trimming. Just owning a chain saw doesn’t make you an expert. It is too easy to get hurt and there are no second chances.”