Operate equipment safely

The knives on wood chippers and shredders are sharp enough to slice through fresh wood. The engines are powerful enough to grind thick branches and limbs. Those same knives and engines would make short work of a worker’s finger, a hand or an arm. Workers can be pulled into the knives or struck by the chipper disc hood. Workers should never operate this equipment without training.


  • Workers feeding materials into self-feeding chippers or shredders can get caught in chipper knives. A worker’s limb can be shredded.
  • An unlatched, improperly secured or damaged hood can be thrown from the chipper or shredder. Fixtures can easily be thrown if they come into contact with the rotating knives.

Safety tips for selecting the work area

  • Position the chipper or shredder so that workers do not have to stand on slopes when feeding material into the machine.
  • Keep the area around the chipper or shredder free of tripping hazards.
  • Put up warning signs to keep the public a safe distance from work area.
  • Ensure that the dislodging chute is positioned to prevent chips from being blown in any direction.

Safety precautions for knives

  • Wear a hard hat, sturdy slip-resistant footwear, eye protection, hearing protection, gloves without cuffs and pants without cuffs.
  • Keep shirt sleeves buttoned and shirts tucked into pants.
  • Read the operator’s manual and complete training on proper use and safety precautions before using a chipper or a shredder.
  • Do not work alone when using a chipper or a shredder.
  • Test all safety and emergency shut-off devices before operating the chipper or the shredder.
  • Make sure the material to be chipped is free from stones, metal and other foreign objects.

Safety precautions for disc and drum hoods

  • If the machine is out of order, tag it with a “Do Not Use” tag. If possible, lock it out.
  • Make sure that the hood covering the knives is completely closed.
  • Run the machine at the lowest possible speed and listen for noises that might indicate broken parts.
  • If you hear unusual noises, shut down the machine right away. Have it repaired by a qualified technician.
  • Allow all internal machine parts to come to a complete stop before opening the hood covering the disc or drum.
  • Wear gloves when handling the knives.
  • Knives must be changed if damaged.
  • When sharpened knives are fitted, maintain the clearance between the knives and the anvil.


  • Keep the area around the chipper or the shredder free of tripping hazards.
  • Make sure that the hood covering the knives is completely closed.
  • Knives must be changed if damaged.

Courtesy of Farm Safety Association, www.farmsafety.ca. A Spanish version of this article appears on C8.

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