AN arborist was unable to return to work for two months after puncturing their hand while moving blackthorn branch wood. 

The individual needed surgery to remove a small, deep lying section of broken thorn tip and to clean out the wound. 

Occurring while they were cutting the branches to maintain safety clearances on the overhead powerline network, the injury was initially considered minor but became infected over the following days.

The arborist was wearing the correct PPE The arborist was wearing the correct PPE (Image: Supplied)

The arborist – who was wearing the correct personal protective equipment –was given antibiotics and was unable to return to normal work duties for two months.

Details on the incident have been released in a bid to alert others to the risks involved with blackthorn. 

An incident bulletin read: "The arborist was wearing task specific Personal Protective Equipment - heavy leather gauntlets.

"We have had two other instances, in the last four years, where hand puncture wounds from blackthorn have led to serious infections, requiring arborists having to take time off work while they recovered.

"This issue is also of relevance to forest managers and their contractors involved in tree clearance, establishment or fencing involving thorn bearing hedge species."

Where possible, look to permanently remove thorn bearing shrub species with the growth form that can: 
• affect the safety clearances to the overhead powerline network, requiring them to be maintained.
• encroach upon overhead powerline infrastructure, such as powerline poles and supports.

If the landowner requires a hedge line species to maintain privacy, look to replace the thorn species with shrub species or tree species, which can be shaped into a low privacy hedge, but which do not carry thorns, such as Hazel, Beech, or Yew.

Engineering Controls
Where reasonably practical, look to have extensive areas of thorn species cleared by mechanised means, such as a boom mounted flail.

Where this is not reasonably practical, look to reduce and/or maintain the height of thorn hedges to that which can be maintained from the ground with a handheld hedge pruner. Reducing the requirement to climb the hedge and cut and handle large sections.

Administrative Controls
In your site-specific risk assessment, detail how you are going to minimise and control the cutting and handling of the thorn tree.

If you are required to handle thorn branch wood, always wear the supplied heavy duty thornproof gloves.