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Safety Tips | FACE Reports

FACEValue: Tree trimmer electrocuted

February 1, 2013

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​Tree trimmer electrocuted

Case report: #11CA003*

Issued by: California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (CA/FACE) Program
Date of incident: April 2011

A self-employed handyman was electrocuted while trimming tree branches in a residential front yard. The victim was hired by a homeowner to trim the branches of a tree growing into utility lines. According to the victim’s sons, the handyman never had any formal training in gardening, landscaping or tree trimming. The victim was wearing a full-body harness for fall protection and had a climbing rope, flip line, drop line and climbing spurs. He used a chain saw to cut away the branches of the tree. A branch that was cut did not fully detach from the tree and struck the energized electric power lines. The electric current flowed through the cut branch and into the victim, who was attached to the tree with his climbing spurs. Paramedics removed the body from the tree approximately two hours later, after the utility company de-energized the power lines. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Notify the electric utility company whenever tree trimming is being performed closer than 10 feet to energized high-voltage electrical lines; the lines should be de-energized or covered.
  • Make sure workers receive training and certification in line-clearance tree trimming operations by qualified instructors.
  • Homeowners whose trees are growing near or into electric power lines should contact the electric utility company and request they trim the trees.
  • Homeowners should hire only qualified line-clearance tree trimmers or contractors who are trained and certified by organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture or the Tree Care Industry Association.

*This report is the product of NIOSH’s Cooperative State partner. The findings and conclusions in each report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of NIOSH.

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