The tree care industry involves the care and maintenance of trees, such as tree trimming, pruning, and removal. Unlike logging, where trees are cut down from forests and transported, tree care deals with maintenance of trees while they are still in the ground within the forest or on somebody’s property. Back in the early 90’s and over the next 15 years more than 1,200 workers died while performing tree care. About half of those deaths were due to slip-and-falls while suspended in the air cutting or pruning trees. From slip-and-falls and falling branches, to electrocutions and fires, the life of a tree care professional is much more dangerous than the title suggests.
Therefore, we need precautions to help workers ensure safety while at the workplace and minimize falls while on the job. OSHA has set standards for safety with fall protection, especially while suspended in the air or climbing up branches on trees. Below are just a few of the precautionary measures workers can take to increase safety standards.
How to Avoid Falls in Tree Care
Keep Fall Protection Equipment Untangled – Many falls in tree care occur when something wrong happens with fall protection equipment. Many victims climbing the trees for trimming will cross-up their lanyards attached to the pulley device on their fall protection system. If they fall, this tangling may cause a malfunction within the locking device on a lanyard. Always make sure your lanyard line has a clear path to the attachment point and always be hooked onto a fall protection system. Some workers will unclip and re-attach later, sometimes even forgetting they were unattached for most of the day. When work is busy, and the sun is hot, humans make mistakes and can forget to re-attach. This is when fatal accidents happen.
Keep All Sharp Objects Away From Lanyard – Another common human error leading to potential fatalities within the tree care industry involves the use of sharp objects. In order to adequately perform their duties workers need chainsaws and sharp cutting devices. Unfortunately, these same tools end up being their demise. One case study back in the 90’s highlighted by OHSA as one of the biggest tragedies was when a young worker climbed over 50 feet, accidently cut his lanyard line while trimming, and fell to his death. This can and does happen every year, so keep your rope attached on your backside, away from workspace actions.
Wear Proper Shoes – Companies like Timberland offer OSHA qualified shoes for tree climbers within the tree care industry. These shoes are designed for heavy use with built-in grip and extended ankle support. Wearing the correct shoes is vital to the well-being of your feet, but even more so your balance and stability. In order to avoid falls at all costs, wearing the proper shoes and apparel is imperative.
Find a Secure Anchor – Most fatalities occur in tree care from human error and malfunctions, not from actual falls themselves. Many workers fall every single day – it’s the human errors with fall protection that create life-ending situations. If you ask any safety professional they will tell you there are two precautionary points that are paramount in safety – the first has already been explained previously through the proper lanyard to harness attachment. The second, and probably the most important, is the attachment point. Where are you tying off the fall protection equipment and how stable is the anchor? Just as a foundation is paramount for a home, anchor points are essential to worker safety. If you anchor your fall protection device to a faulty branch or rotting trunk, the fall may break the connection point and send you tumbling down to the ground. Always check with safety experts during attachment if you plan on climbing extreme heights.
Matthew Hall speaks from experience – having run a small tree care business for a while and being familiar with the hazards associated with the job. To help keep his employees safe, he went to http://ecompliance.com for necessary health and safety training and software. You can learn more about Matthew by visiting him on Google+.