On Dec. 1, a worker in Mariposa County was struck by a tree branch and killed. On Dec. 4, a San Bernardino tree trimmer suffocated when dry palm fronds collapsed and trapped him. On Jan. 6 a worker in Los Angeles County fell about 60 feet to his death when the branch to which he was tethered broke. And on Jan. 9, a worker in Siskiyou County was struck by the tree he was cutting to clear power lines.

 

Enhancing Safety in a High-Risk Industry

 

Cal/OSHA is asking employers in this high-risk industry to be aware of, and take steps to minimize the hazards to their workers. The agency has said it will cite employers who are not in compliance with vital safety requirements that could help save lives in this industry. Between the two-year period between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2016, Cal/OSHA investigated nearly 70 accidents involving tree work including tree trimming or removal services. Nearly three out of four accidents results in the worker being hospitalized and 12 ended up being fatal.

 

As part of this safety campaign, Tree Work Safety Emphasis Program, Cal/OSHA inspectors throughout the state who observe unsafe tree trimming or tree removal operations will investigate possible violations and respond to reports of unsafe operations. The safety agency also has resources available to help both employers and employees, including a Tree Work Safety Guide, fact sheet and safety checklist. It also provides free and voluntary consultations to employers who wish to improve their health and safety programs.

 

Common Dangers with Tree Trimming

 

Here are some of the common ways in which tree trimmers get injured or killed on the job:

 

  • Getting hit by a tree branch. Without proper planning and a way to secure the section of the tree that is being removed, there is a danger of a branch falling and seriously injuring the worker. The bigger the branch, the greater the injuries.
  • Falling off the tree or a ladder. Tree trimming or removal work often involves working at heights. Workers may need to get on a ladder or often times, even use harnesses get on top of a tall tree. In some cases falls off ladders can be catastrophic. Without proper harnessing, workers could suffer fatal falls.
  • Suffering an electric shock. Electrocution is a very real hazard for workers who are performing trimming or removal operations. Trimming branches near electrical wires or power lines can proves dangerous. Workers may either come in contact with live power lines and get electrocuted or they may become injured when a falling branch knocks wires down. These falling wires may also electrocute anyone who is too close including the tree trimmer or even someone who is nearby helping the worker.
  • Amputation injuries can occur because power tools such as chainsaws and chippers are often used while trimming and removing trees. Such accidents could lead to a lost finger, hand or other body parts. This could also occur when tools malfunction. Workers may also suffer from serious laceration injuries when branches fall and cut them.
  • Eye injuries can occur when a worker is not equipped with eye safety glasses or goggles. During trimming or removal, sawdust, wood chips and other debris can land in the worker’s eye causing corneal abrasions, cuts or scratches in the eye. A serious eye injury could occur if a wood chip flies out of the chipper and lands in the worker’s eye.
  • Stings and bites. Trees are home to many creatures including insects. When nests are disturbed while trimming, insects such as wasps might attack the worker. It is important that workers protect against such situations before venturing to trim or remove the tree.

 

What Workers Need to Perform Safe Operations

 

In order to prevent these and other injuries while performing tree trimming or removal operations, Cal/OSHA requires employers to provide safety training to employees to improve their knowledge and awareness of workplace hazards so they can perform their work more safety and efficiently. Safety training provided to workers should be practical and include a requirement for employees to demonstrate the ability to safely perform work on their own.

 

Employers are also required to provide this type of training in languages that their workers understand well. Training should cover all aspects including the job-specific hazards associated with tree work, safe work procedures, fall prevention, communication methods, first aid and CPR, and roadway safety.

 

In addition, workers should be provided with and trained to use equipment such as harnesses, belts, tree saddles, ropes and lanyards. Equipment should be inspected before each use and should not be used if found damaged or defective. Workers should also be provided with personal protective equipment such as hard hats, face shields, safety goggles, shoes, gloves, high-visibility clothing and hearing protection.

 

If You Have Been Injured

 

If you have been injured on the job as a tree trimmer, please remember that you have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits through your employer. Contacting a workers compensation attorney in Los Angeles is a good idea for those seeking legal help. It is important that you report your injury immediately to your supervisor and/or employer. Make a written report and obtain a copy for your records. Get medical attention immediately for your injuries and follow the doctor’s orders. Workers’ compensation mostly covers medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. In some cases, when negligence on the part of a third party is involved, you may also be able to file a third party claim in addition to your workers’ compensation claim. For example, if you are a tree trimmer who has suffered an amputation as the result of a defective or malfunctioning chainsaw, you may be able to seek additional compensation from the manufacturer of the faulty product that caused your injury.

 

Injured workers would be well advised to contact an experienced California workers’ compensation lawyer who will fight hard to protect their rights and help them get the support they need to receive proper medical care and treatment. Call the ODG Law Group at 818-230-2428 to obtain more information about protecting your legal rights

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