Smoky Mountains

Hiking Club

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Trail Maintenance Safety

Safety should always be the top priority with any of the volunteer work that we do. It is important that our volunteers understand the potential risks that they may encounter while doing trail maintenance.

Our agency partners have developed a Job Hazards Analysis (JHA) Form. These forms outline the type of work that a maintainer might perform when in the field, the potential risks, safety gear to use to prevent injury, and potential methods to reduce or eliminate the risks.

On an annual basis, volunteers are asked to review and sign a copy of the JHA.

Job Hazard Analysis - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Job Hazard Analysis - Nantahala National Forest

It is always good practice to do a self-check safety briefing before you head out on your work trip. The safety check should also include travel to/from the trail. A tailgate safety check-in is required for work groups of 2 or more.

Safety items to consider include:

  • Communications: Do you have a method for communicating with officials if an emergency arises?
    Emergency contact - National Park:
    Emergency contact - National Forest:
  • Weather: Know the forecast for before, during, and after your planned trip. Be alert for changing weather and possible trail and road conditions. Be prepared for the weather conditions that you are likely to encounter. Be prepared to alter your plan if the weather changes.
  • Tools: Do you have the right tools for the task that you plan to do? Are the tools properly serviced and in good working order? Do all members of the work crew know proper carry and use of the tools?
  • Job Hazard Analysis: Periodically review the JHA to understand the potential hazards of the task(s) you will be performing. Know the risk mitigation options for those tasks.
  • Safety Gear: Some tasks require Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Is your safety gear in good working condition?
  • Medical/First Aid: Do any of the participant have any allergies or medical conditions to be aware of? Is a first aid kit needed?
  • Know your exit strategy and be prepared to execute it if/when necessary.

Additional Resources

ATC Safety and Training - several links and articles on this page that cover a variety of trail safety topics.

Safety circle - if you've ever worked with an ATC crew, you've probably participated in the safety circle talk before work begins. Everyone stands in a circle and takes turns providing a safety tip along with either a warm-up stretch or a joke. This activity creates a fun way for everyone to engage with the group while also reviewing important issues to stay aware of while working on the trail. 

For information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the NPS website or call the information line at (865) 436-1200.

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club

PO Box 51592

Knoxville, TN 37950-1592

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