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Trail Work Safety Guidelines

How WTA keeps volunteers and staff safe on trail work parties.

Safety First

WTA staff and leadership always think about safety when considering how to improve a worksite, how the crew will work together, and how you safeguard others. If it's not safe don't do it.

Use Protective Personal Gear

Volunteers and staff must wear gloves, boots, and long pants. Volunteers are provided with a hard hat that must be worn while working, and the crew leader will provide eye protection if needed, but if you have eye protection you prefer to use, feel free to bring it along.

We also recommend bringing a long-sleeved shirt, extra gloves if it is rainy or muddy, and gear for cold or wet weather. A well-stocked first aid kit is always nice to have with you, but the crew leader will have one.

Use the right tool for the job

Incorrect tools can make the job take longer, result in injuries, damage the tools and create the wrong effect at the site. Before the day begins, we will go over the tools we will use that day and explain what jobs they are good for. You can get to know our tools a bit more here if you'd like to do so before your volunteer day.

Carry Tools Safely

Always carry tools in your hands and down at your side, ideally in the hand that is closest to the downhill side of the trail. For long distances, strap unused tools to your pack; we don't carry tools over our shoulders. Use blade guards whenever possible. Balance heavy weights between your hands, especially when repeating tasks such as carrying buckets of rock.

Eliminate Area Hazards

Be extra cautious on unstable surfaces such as loose rock, branches, vines, slippery moss and clay surfaces. Before starting to work, remove obstacles and debris from your working space overhead, underfoot, and in tool swinging area. Place tools and materials safely aside where they don't present a hazard. Take a firm, balanced and comfortable stance before using a tool.

Use Body Motion Wisely

Work smarter, not harder! Use short chops, not long swings. Protect your back by bending at the knees when using digging tools and use your knee as an arm support whenever possible. Change tasks as needed to avoid repetitive motion syndrome. Your crew leaders will go over this at the beginning of each work party.

Protect Others

Ensure others are always outside the combined length of your arm and tool. Make sure there is no one downhill who may be struck by materials from you or your co-workers. Watch for trail users who may try to walk around you without getting your attention. When someone comes by, stop work, notify your co-workers, and wait for the person to pass. When practical, use portable signage to warn trail users to watch for a work party in progress.

Guidelines developed by the Volunteers for Outdoor Washington and adapted by Washington Trails Association.