Wood chipper hazards and a lack of training were among the hazards that resulted in the issuance of a Cease Operations Order against a Michigan landscaping business.

That action by the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) was taken against Sunset Tree Service & Landscaping, LLC of Bay City for continuing to operate without abating previously identified hazards on the jobsite.

MIOSHA also issued 12 citations totaling $222,000 in proposed penalties.

Unresolved safety issues

Pursuant to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act 154 of 1974, MIOSHA ordered the company to cease operations due to unresolved safety issues, including:

  • Inadequate guard/distance to feed rolls on the Bandit Chipper,
  • Unguarded shaft with hex flange projections on the Bandit Chipper,
  • Operator safety control bar tied back with rope and wire, rendering the device ineffective on the Bandit Chipper,
  • Traffic control devices not utilized when employees were working in and adjacent to the road,
  • No cover on access panel for the Bandit Chipper, and
  • No training on tree trimming operations and safeguards.

As a result of two MIOSHA inspections conducted with Sunset from January 11, 2017 to March 15, 2017, MIOSHA issued six failure-to-abate citations for the violations listed above and six willful serious citations – the most serious classification.

A history of violations

Sunset has an extensive history of safety violations. Between 2011 and 2016, 14 inspections were conducted at the company, resulting in 48 citations with total initial penalties of $150,000. It has also been cited nine times for failure-to-abate. MIOSHA executed a Cease Operations Order against the company in May 2016, which was later lifted after it abated the violations.

“Sunset’s gross negligence of MIOSHA regulations continues to jeopardize the safety of its most valuable asset – its employees,” said Edgerton. “While MIOSHA strives to work collaboratively with the employer community, such a pattern of non-compliance requires that we take the necessary enforcement actions.”

Sunset Tree Service & Landscaping employs six workers and is an ornamental shrub and tree service. The business requires the extensive use of personal protective equipment, hand tools and various powered equipment used in the removal and processing of trees.