The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) is asking tree trimming businesses to be on high alert for unsafe work practices that can lead to injury or death.
 
Six tree trimmers have died in Michigan so far this year due to work-related injuries from falls and being struck by falling trees and branches, compared to two tree trimming-related deaths in both 2014 and 2015.
 
“Tree trimming is dangerous work, especially when workers are not in compliance with MIOSHA rules,” said MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman. “One worker death is one too many. MIOSHA is asking employers and employees to take immediate action to ensure the safety of workers involved in tree trimming operations.”
 
MIOSHA field staff will be on the lookout for tree trimming operations during their travels this fall. If a serious hazard is observed at a jobsite, an inspection can be initiated on the spot. The agency is also outreaching to employers engaged in tree trimming and companies that contract tree trimming services, requesting they review and observe the work practices of employees and take steps to ensure safe methods are followed.
 
Unsafe work methods include:
 
  • Employees lacking proper personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, safety glasses, and high-visibility vests next to roadways.
  • Missing or inadequate signs on the road warning approaching vehicles of the roadside tree-trimming operations ahead.
  • Employees working aloft in a tree without proper fall protection.
  • Employees in the bucket of an aerial lift without fall protection or not anchored or tied off to the bucket.
  • Employees working too close to electrical wires.
  • Employees standing under, in the path of, or in close proximity to limb cutting, limb dropping, or tree felling.
  • Inadequate guarding on the wood chipper or employees too close to the feed end.
  • Poor limb or tree felling procedures that could cause employees to fall from trees or an employee to be struck by falling trees or limbs.
 
Health hazards can also affect tree trimmers, including exposures to chemicals, noise and heat.
 
MIOSHA and federal OSHA provide numerous resources to help employers create a strong safety program and train their employees. Educational materials include the MIOSHA fact sheet on the Tree Care Industry and from OSHA: OSHA Quick Card on Tree Trimming & Removal Safety, OSHA webpage for the Tree Care Industry, Hurricane eMatrix for Waste/Debris Removal and Reduction, and OSHA Fact Sheet on Using Aerial Lifts.
 
MIOSHA’s Consultation, Education and Training (CET) Division is available at no cost to help employers develop a safety and health program and comply with current MIOSHA regulations. Employers can contact CET at 517-284-7720 for a free evaluation of their jobsite. The best time to take advantage of these free services is before an accident happens.