Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Tree care-related worker fatalities down in 2017: report

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Photo: Tree Care Industry Association Inc.

Londonderry, NH — Fatalities among tree care workers dipped nearly 22 percent in 2017, while incidents decreased about 16 percent, according to a recent analysis from the Tree Care Industry Association.

Researchers examined media reports and found that 72 of the 129 tree work-related incidents that occurred in 2017 were fatal – down from 92 in both 2016 and 2015 and 81 in 2014. TCIA reported 153 total incidents in 2016, 45 of which resulted in “serious injury.”

The average age of the workers in all the incidents was 43. In a Feb. 19 press release, TCIA speculates that “complacency rather than ignorance” played a “significant role,” pointing to the following:

  • The typical fall victim was unsecured.
  • The typical struck-by victim stayed in the drop zone.
  • The typical electrocution victim violated minimum approach distance and made contact through a conductive tool/object.

Struck-by or struck-against incidents were most common, with 43, followed by falls (42) and electric shock or burn (22). California (14), Florida (12) and Georgia (nine) posted the most incident counts, according to the report.

In 2006, TCIA petitioned OSHA to create a standard for tree care workers. In 2008, the agency published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on tree care but removed the item from its regulatory agenda in 2010, citing “insufficient resources.” In November 2015, a tree care standard was back on the agenda as a “pre-rule stage” item, slated for publication in October 2017. It was moved to “long-term action” status on the fall 2017 agenda.

Peter Gerstenberger – TCIA’s senior advisor for safety, compliance and standards – told Safety+Health on Feb. 21 that he was scheduled to testify at a Feb. 27 hearing convened by the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, and that “I will use it as an opportunity to explain how OSHA could be much more effective at preventing accidents in our industry if they had a black-and-white rule for us.”

OSHA recently published a guidance infographic for the tree care industry.

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