Falling Tree Causes Worker Injury

The start of bring brings a host of lawn care and tree maintenance workers out in full force. But tree care is an especially perilous industry, as illustrated by a recent incident in Massachusetts. tree

According to the Boston Herald, a government employee for the public works department in Ipswich suffered severe injuries as he was struck by a falling tree while cleaning up debris following a brush fire. The worker was helping the state’s forestry division control a brush fire by finding and tamping down hot spots when a tree fell on top of him. He was flown by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. In Minnesota last month, a worker was seriously injured while trying to remove a tree in St. Louis County. He and his crew were trying to remove another tree when high-powered winds knocked over one nearby, landing on the worker. And in another case, a 20-year-old contract worker for the federal parks service in California was crushed to death by a tree at Yosemite that came crashing down during a powerful storm.

As OSHA notes, there are many serious hazards in tree care work. The two primary dangers are:

  • Falling trees/ objects.
  • Falls from trees.

The law requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees.

Within the tree care industry, there are many potentially injurious hazards that may result in severe injury or death. That does not mean such incidents are inevitable. In fact, employers have a great deal of information available to them to help prevent tree-related injuries on-the-job.

OSHA outlined two cases that mirror the majority of tree care deaths investigated by the federal regulator. Those were:

  • Tree maintenance worker was moving branches that had been trimmed to a chipper when a nearby trimmer cut a piece of a limb that fell onto the worker’s head. The limb fell on the worker’s head, killing him instantly. An OSHA investigation later revealed ground personnel shouldn’t have been in the “drop zone” while tree trimming work was being carried out.
  • A worker climbed a large tree to cut off the top part. After trimming one section and making his way down, the trunk on which he was working broke in half. The worker and the entire top of the tree fell 65 feet, killing the worker. An OSHA investigation revealed employer could have prevented the incident by conducting a preliminary assessment, which would have shown the tree couldn’t support the forces of rigging and roping down cut sections of the tree.

Employers can access the work site for risks associated with falls and falling hazards before work begins.

Some of the precautions that should be taken before beginning any tree care operation include:

  • Have a qualified arborist (as defined by the American National Standard Institute’s Z133 consensus standard) inspect the work site, identify the trees on site and outlined possible hazards related to tree structure. The arborist can also identify all hazards and falling objects due to tree condition.
  • Determine whether rigging must be done and if so, how to do it safely.
  • Figure out if workers will need to use aerial lifts or if they will be climbing. Make sure all equipment is inspected, secured and a minimum of 10 feet away from power lines and other equipment.
  • De-energize power lines if necessary.
  • Established and mark drop zones if there is a risk of falling hazards.
  • Establish audible communication between overhead workers and those on the ground.

Workers have a right to work in conditions that don’t threaten them with serious harm. Those who may have suffered a work-related injury should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Tree Care Work: Falls and Falling Object Hazards, OSHA

More Blog Entries:

N.C. Court of Appeals Accepts Workers’ Compensation Claimant’s “Reasonable Effort” for Employment, April 10, 2017, Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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