Keches Law Group would like to remind arborists of the dangers of working within the tree care industry, and how to perform jobs in the safest way possible. According to DripLine, of the reported accidents thus far in 2020, there have already been 19 fatalities and 15 injuries reported.
A client of Keches Law Group was killed falling from a tree while working in Rowley, MA last year. The 34-year-old fell approximately 50 feet from a pine tree and was med flighted to a Boston hospital. He was later pronounced dead. The victim was preparing to remove a branch when he suddenly fell.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did an inspection to determine if the employer, Mayer Tree Service, violated any safety protocols. OSHA concluded that the company had two serious violations.
Dangers of Working in the Tree Industry
Tree work includes trimming, pruning, felling (the process of cutting down individual trees), as well as the removal of trees and bushes. Workers also perform job duties near dangerous operations such as power lines, tree chippers, and different power tools. There are several dangers of working in the tree industry, some of which can be fatal. The most common are as follows:
- Struck-by objects
- Caught in (trees, outdoor power equipment, etc)
The Massachusetts Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Project (FACE) addresses a few ways in which arborists can avoid fatalities or injuries when working onsite. To start, it is important to know that when workers are located up in a tree, they should use at least two ways of being tied in the tree at all times. The proper equipment includes hard hats, gloves, safety glasses, hearing protection, and proper climbing gear. Routine inspections should be made before each use to ensure these different types of equipment are safe and in good condition. Lastly, health and safety policies should be written for the entire company to access.
There are several safety steps that should be taken in order to avoid being injured by falling objects like tree branches. Prior to beginning any tree work, its important to mark the areas where limbs or branches will or could be falling, in order to alert workers to not walk within the drop zones. Furthermore, it is necessary that employees receive proper training on procedures for when they can enter these drop zones. Any crew members working on the ground should remain a safe distance away from the tree falling operations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that any employee working on grounds stay at least two times the height of a tree away. When employees are tree felling with a rope, they must be at a distance that is at least one and a half times the height of the tree being felled.
Electrocution is a big concern for employees working within the tree industry as well. It is crucial that all employees are trained on the possible risks of electrocution. Prior to any work, the area should be observed for any potential hazards. According to OSHA, electricity can travel throughout the ground, therefore, workers need to wear proper footwear. Employees should not have any direct contact with any energized power lines. For precaution, they should assume all power lines are energized just to be safe. The most important thing to understand is if an employee is unable to remain at least 10 feet from electric power lines in order to perform operations, a utility company should be contacted to de-energize and ground the lines.
Communication is essential within the tree care industry. Commands and responses between workers are essential. Whether that be through proper hand signals, radio-controlled helmets, etc. Having a communication system in place between ground workers and those working in the trees is very important to ensure safety for all onsite.
Reporting a Serious Incident
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should be notified within eight hours of any work-related death. In the event that three or more employees are hospitalized due to a work-related incident, the employer must notify OSHA by telephone or in-person at one of the nearby offices. OSHA will need the following information:
- Name of Employer
- Location of the incident
- Time of the incident
- Number of fatalities or employees hospitalized
- Contact person
- Phone number
- Brief description of the incident
If you or a loved one has been injured on a worksite, contact Keches Law Group at 617-898-0808 or online for a free, no-obligation consultation today. We will be happy to meet you at one of our conveniently located offices or at your home.