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FACEValue: Arborist dies after fall from tree

NIOSH’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Reports
Date of incident: Fall 2009

A 30-year-old arborist was killed after falling approximately 20 feet from a tree he was trimming. He was the company’s only employee but used temporary help when required. He previously was employed by another professional tree removal service, which had trained him on procedures and safety techniques. After working an eight-hour day at his primary job, the victim and a ground person arrived at a private residence to remove three trees from the property. The victim put on spurs and a tree-climbing saddle, and climbed the tree with a climbing line. After trimming limbs from the tree trunk, he began to cut the trunk in sections. From the fork of the tree, he cut a section of the trunk that he had secured with a pull rope. He signaled the ground person to begin lowering the section, not realizing his safety rope also was connected to it, causing him to fall to the ground as well. The ground person immediately began administering first aid. The homeowner came outside after hearing the commotion and called emergency medical services. EMS arrived to find the victim without vital signs. The local coroner was called and pronounced the victim dead at the scene.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Tree removal companies should have an applicable written safety program based on ANSI Z133.1-2006. The safety program should outline and explain all required personal protective equipment, how to conduct a hazard assessment at the beginning of each job, and procedures for all tree removal tasks. It also should include proper rope placement and rope maintenance.
  • Appropriate PPE should be worn at all times while removing trees. Although he was wearing spurs and a climbing saddle, the victim was not wearing a helmet, nor were his legs through the straps on the climbing saddle.
  • Tree removal should be performed when workers are alert. The victim began the hazardous task of removing trees after working a full eight-hour day at another job. He did not have any rest time between the two jobs. Workers performing such duties should be aware of fatigue and delay work until properly rested.

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