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222 – Dangers of Tree / Bush Sap

12 October 2022

Incident Overview

An employee removed some small branches from a bush to provide clear access to a water meter in order to repair a stop tap. Unknown to the employee, some milky white sap had oozed from the end of the cut branches and deposited itself on the back of the employee’s gloves.

Due to the water pressure from the open tap, water splashed the employee’s face and knocked his glasses off and he used the back of his gloves to wipe away the water to see properly. In doing so, the sap washed into both his eyes.

After about 20 minutes the sap began to sting the employee’s eyes and also caused an allergic reaction rash on his forehead; he was taken to hospital where the sap was scraped off the employee’s eyeballs as it had dried on them.

The employee’s vision was blurred for 4 days due to the incident and he could not undertake his work duties.

Housekeeping & Order

  • Wherever possible keep a wash cloth handy /nearby to wipe up spills on the body, instead of using the back of gloves which may be dirty.

Protective Equipment

  • Safety glasses and gloves were worn in this instance, and at least provided some protection from causing a rash on the back of his hands

Rules & Procedures

  • Request the resident to undertake any pruning work and come back when it is done and access is possible.
  • Advise Operations to downgrade the job priority if this is the case.

Tools & Equipment

  • Do not cut bushes away yourself – get the resident or the local council to do it for you. Always ensure tools are cleaned at the end of a job.

Milky white sap is dangerous! It can cause allergic skin reactions and is toxic if swallowed – avoid contact both at home and at work!

HSE Representative: Richard Aitken
Date of issue: 21 April 2020

Categories: Safety Alert