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OSHA outlines safety precautions for tree-care workers

Pennsylvania workers may be interested in a recent bulletin issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration outlining safety precautions for workers in the tree-care industry. The bulletin focuses on preventable accidents, especially those involving falls and falling objects.

In an attempt to illustrate the agency's concerns, the hazard bulletin cites two fatalities that arguably could have been prevented. In one of the cases, a tree reportedly snapped in half while an employee was working on it, causing the employee to fall 65 feet. In its investigation, OSHA determined that the employer should have performed a preliminary assessment of the tree before the work started. In the second case, a worker was fatally struck by falling material, and OSHA determined that the employer should have kept the individual from being in the drop zone, which is the area where the branches fall from a tree after they are trimmed.

OSHA recommends that employers retain a qualified arborist to examine worksites for potential falling-objects and possible fall hazards, establish drop zones, prepare and implement emergency procedures, establish various communications between workers on the ground and workers in the trees, and utilize aerial lifts when necessary. Furthermore, OSHA notes the programs the agency has launched at local and regional levels to focus on reducing fatalities among tree-trimming workers.

In the event that a worker suffers injuries during an accident like those cited in the bulletin, Pennsylvania workers' compensation laws may provide recourse for the injured worker. The worker may be entitled to benefits that pay for doctor visits, medical care and rehabilitation services. The worker may also receive wage-loss benefits if the injuries prove to be disabling.

However, the claim-filing process can be complicated and highly contentious if the employer offers resistance to the claim. For this reason, it is important that workers retain a workers' compensation lawyer when they are injured in a workplace accident.

Source: EHS Today, "OSHA Hazard Bulletin Details Tree-Trimming Hazards and Safety Measures", Josh Cable, June 19, 2014

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