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Tree-Care Workers Subject of Newest OSHA Emphasis Program
 

By Roy Maurer  6/17/2014
 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) June 16, 2014, announced the launch of several local and regional safety inspection programs focused on tree-care workers along with a new bulletin on tree-trimming hazards.

The tree-care industry can be very dangerous, according to OSHA, exposing workers to falls and falling objects, as well as electrocution and crushing hazards. There were 243 worker deaths nationwide in 2012 during tree trimming and clearing activities, according to OSHA.

The agency will target inspections and direct outreach and compliance resources to the tree trimming and clearing industry under emphasis programs in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Illinois.

The Philadelphia region area offices alone are sending notification letters to 2,110 stakeholders, including employers, employee labor groups, and tree-care trade associations.

According to OSHA, the four leading causes of death for tree workers are struck-by hazards, caught-in hazards, falls from elevation, and electrical shock. “These accidents included, but were not limited to workers being struck by falling trees and limbs, workers struck by motorized equipment, falls from trees, lifts, and ladders, workers caught in chippers, and electrical shock suffered while working near overhead power lines,” OSHA said.

The bulletin describes two recent fatal incidents involving tree trimmers, identifying the hazards that contributed to their deaths and informing employers of necessary safety measures. In one incident, a tree-care worker on the ground was struck and killed by a falling tree limb because he had not been trained on staying out of the drop zone. In another incident, a worker fell 65 feet when the trunk of the tree he was working on snapped in half.

The bulletin also lists safety precautions for employers to use before they begin any tree-care operations, which include:

  • Assessing the worksite for fall and falling object hazards.
  • Having a qualified arborist survey the worksite.
  • Determining if workers will need to climb or use aerial lifts.
  • Taking steps to protect workers from falling object hazards, such as establishing drop zones where there is a hazard of falling objects.
  • Establishing visual and audible communications with overhead and ground workers.
  • Having emergency procedures in place.

More information on the tree-care industry can be found here.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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