news article

Blackthorn injuries: beware of the risks

15 May 2024 | Technical News

The Forestry Industry Safety Accord (FISA) recently sent a safety alert to members following a report of a utility arborist who required surgery to remove a blackthorn tip. FISA have reported similar cases in previous years, which mirror cases identified by the Association’s own Health and Safety Forum.

In the most recent case, the worker suffered a simple puncture wound whilst moving arisings following clearance of Blackthorn from a site. Initially the injury was considered minor but later became infected and required surgery to remove the thorn and clean the wound. The worker recovered but was unable to return to normal work duties for 2 months.

Learning outcomes

Using the hierarchy of control as a guide, there are some options which members may consider:

  • Elimination

Where possible, species containing thorns which require regular maintenance are removed from sites entirely.   

  • Substitution

Species containing thorns are replaced with alternatives that serve a similar purpose. 

  • Engineering Controls

Consider use of machinery that removes the need for direct contact with thorns. For example, use of hand tools.  

  • Administrative controls

Identify the thorns in the site risk assessment and outline to operatives how handling of thorns might be minimised.

  • Personal Protective Equipment

Where handling of thorns cannot be avoided, heavy duty thorn or bramble-proof gloves may be provided. 

Further reading

FISA Safety Alert

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