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Deaths of six tree trimmers in Michigan spur hazard alert

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Tree trimming worker

Photo: flyfloor/iStockphoto

Lansing, MI – Amid a tree-trimmer fatality rate more than 14 times the state average this year, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a hazard alert cautioning against unsafe work practices.

Through early October, five trimmers had died as a result of a fall, and one died after being struck and squeezed by rigging rope. MIOSHA has issued serious citations related to two of the fatalities while investigations into the remaining four deaths are ongoing.

The spike in deaths has increased the state’s fatality rate among tree trimmers to 45 per 100,000 workers, based on a U.S. Census Bureau count of 13,389 landscaping services employees statewide, MIOSHA reported. Michigan’s average was 3.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2014.

Other potential hazards include falling trees and branches, passenger vehicles, and electrocution after contact with power lines.

The agency recommends avoiding and reporting unsafe work practices, which include:

  • Lack of personal protective equipment (hard hats, safety glasses, high-visibility vests) when next to roadways
  • Missing or inadequate road signs warning motorists of tree-trimming operations
  • Improper fall protection for employees in trees or in aerial lift buckets
  • Working too close to electrical wires or in proximity to limb cutting, limb dropping or tree felling
  • Inadequate wood chipper guarding or standing too close to the feed end of a chipper

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