Recent tree care worker fatalities prompt new hazard bulletin from OSHA
The tree care industry can be very hazardous, exposing workers to falls and falling objects, as well as transportation, electrocution and crushing hazards. A new OSHA hazard bulletin on tree care work is the first in a series of guidance materials for employers about the dangers to workers.
"Too many tree care workers are being hurt or killed by well-known industry dangers that can be prevented if employers take the necessary precautions," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Employers have a responsibility to ensure workers are protected on the job - this includes providing training and making sure workers have the right tools to stay safe."
The hazard bulletin* details two fatal tree care incidents, one caused by a fall and the other by a falling object. In the first, OSHA's investigation found that his employer should have prevented him from being in the tree trimming area or "drop zone." In the other, a worker fell 65 feet when the trunk of the tree he was working on snapped in half. OSHA determined that the employer could have prevented this incident by performing a preliminary examination of the tree before starting work.
The bulletin also lists safety precautions for employers to use before they begin any tree care operations, which include:
- Assess the worksite for fall and falling object hazards
- Have a qualified arborist survey the worksite
- Determine if workers will need to climb or use aerial lifts
- Establish drop zones where there is a hazard of falling objects
- Take steps to protect workers from falling object hazards
- Establish visual and audible communications with overhead and ground workers
- Have emergency procedures in place
To learn more about tree care worker safety, visit OSHA's Tree Care Industry Web page.