Safety Alert Relating to the Use of Chain Flail or Other Non-Standard Cutting Attachments on Brush Cutters (2016)

This safety alert, originally published in 2010, has been re-issued as it has come to the attention of the H.S.A. that Non –Standard flail brush cutter strimmer heads have been on sale recently.  These attachments are extremely dangerous and should not be supplied or used. The safety alert is directed at suppliers and users of portable, hand-held, brush cutters and accessories. These machines are commonly used for cutting wild grass, weeds, brush and similar vegetation, using a variety of standard cutting attachments. They are frequently utilised in landscape maintenance and ground-clearance operations.

The European Commission (DG Enterprise and Industry) has required Member States to prohibit the placing on the market of flail-type cutting attachments consisting of several linked metal parts (e.g. chains) for portable hand-held brush cutters see decision here.

Photograph of Brush Cutter with Typical Manufacturers’ Cutting Attachments

Brush Cutter with Typical Manufacturers’ Cutting Attachments

The Health and Safety Authority has become aware of a dangerous practice involving the fitting of non-standard cutting accessories, not approved by the manufacturers, to brush cutting machines. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK have investigated a fatal incident, the outcome of which indicates that a link, from a chain flail cutting head attached to a brush cutter, struck a nearby worker in the head. The EU rapid alert system for all dangerous consumer products (RAPEX) has warned of the possible supply of chain flail attachments comprising of a cutting head incorporating lengths of metal chain, the supplier of which advertises that their product can be used in conjunction with other main brand brush cutters.

WARNING: Under no circumstances should a non standard cutting head, i.e. one not specifically approved by the manufacturer for use with the machine, be fitted to a brush cutter.

Examples of non standard cutting attachments

Examples of non-standard cutting attachments

The guards fitted to brush cutters are primarily designed to prevent an operator from inadvertently coming into contact with the cutting accessory. They are normally not strong or robust enough to stop articles such as fragments of chain being ejected with high energy. Manufacturers design specific safeguarding to be used in combination with the original cutting equipment such as nylon cords, metal cutting blades and saw blades. The use of non-standard cutting attachments, not approved by the manufacturer, may, because of their geometry and mass, induce excessive stresses which could result in premature failure and possible break-up of the brush cutter, thereby increasing the risk of injury from any ejected component.  The harmonised standard for specifying the safety requirements for such machinery, EN ISO 11806, excludes from its scope brush cutters equipped with metallic blades having more than one part (such as chain links).


These types of attachments should not be made available by suppliers. Users should never use a brush cutter fitted with a non standard cutting attachment. Equipment should be checked and any brush cutters fitted with chain flail or similar non-standard attachments should be taken out of service immediately and the attachments removed and replaced with a manufacturer-approved accessory. The manufacturer’s advice as to the appropriate cutting tools to be fitted to a machine is typically available within the instruction books accompanying a machine.


  • Health and Safety Executive, UK, Safety Alert: available here
  • EN ISO 11806-1:2011 Agricultural and forestry machinery — Safety requirements and testing for portable, hand-held, powered brush-cutters and grass-trimmers — Part 1: Machines fitted with an integral combustion engine (ISO 11806-1:2011)

  • EN ISO 11806-2:2011 Agricultural and forestry machinery — Safety requirements and testing for portable, hand-held, powered brush-cutters and grass-trimmers — Part 2: Machines for use with back-pack power unit (ISO 11806-2:2011)