Tree care work is dangerous. Workers are at risk of getting electrocuted, falling from significant heights, or getting struck by falling trees. Employers are responsible for reducing the risk to their employees by providing protective equipment and proper training. Injured workers who are employees are entitled to compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.
Keeping Tree Workers Safe
Employers must follow OSHA requirements that are applicable to tree workers. It is the employer’s responsibility to minimize the risk of injury or death of their employees. Companies must provide tree trimmers with free protective equipment, including a hard hat, harness, and climbing spurs. They must also provide workers with safety training that includes:
- Identifying electrical and fall hazards
- Knowing proper climbing techniques
- How to use protective equipment, including climbing lines that can save lives during a fall
- Knowing to stand clear of drop zones to avoid getting struck by falling trees and branches
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), job supervisors are required to inspect the work site for possible hazards. They should always assume any power lines at the site are live and could electrocute anyone at any time. The leading cause of death for tree care workers is electrocution caused by coming into contact with live electrical wires. OSHA recommends workers work at least 10 feet away from power lines unless the power company has de-energized and grounded the lines.
When determining the type of special equipment to be used and whether rigging is necessary, the size of the tree and the methods used by workers should be considered. Inspecting equipment prior to its use, checking for falling branch or tree hazards, and marking drop zones with cones placed at least twice the height of the tree getting felled can help prevent serious injuries or deaths.
Tree Workers Need Protection
Workers have the right to speak up about any concerns about work hazards that put them at risk for injury or death.
When employers fail to follow OSHA standards, workers can contact the agency at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) to request an inspection of their workplace. By law, employers cannot retaliate against workers who are exercising their rights for a safe workplace as specified by OSHA’s standards.