The rise of tree care fatal accidents and how to make it stop

May last year Robert Meyer from Tree Services Magazine wrote a thought-provoking article on safety practices. Although the information in the article is not fully up-to-date and is aimed at their U.S audience, we’d like to share with you an extract of their post as well as update some of the content and statistics.

The job of a Tree care professional is a little more dangerous than your average office job. Going to work involves putting their limbs and even lives on the line on a daily basis.

You can put in as many safety precautions as you want, as much training, high-tech gear, and careful working but accidents are still bound to happen.

The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) reviewed 147 occupational tree care accidents reported to the media the OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) and industry colleagues last year. Of these 147 accidents reported last year, 92 were fatal.

Of these 126 accidents reported last year, 81 were fatal.

The year before 126 reported accidents were reviewed and 92 were fatal. In 2013, 79 fatal accidents were documented, and in 2012, it was 44.

There seems to be a trend going on in those numbers, the number of fatal accidents are rising! But why?

According to the TCIA in 8 of the reported 12 fatal electrocution incidents, plus 1 fatal electric shock/burn incident, the victims were using aluminium ladders and/or conductive tools.

In 8 of the 25 reported fatal falls, the victims were not properly secured or were using techniques known to be extremely risky, for example in 3 of the reported palm trimming deaths, the climbers were secured to the trunk below the front skirts.

Peter Gerstenberger, TCIA’s senior advisor for safety, standards and compliance thinks that better routine training is needed to help reduce these accidents, “It seems clear to us that the practitioners most in need of improved knowledge and training are also the least inclined to seek out training opportunities,” said Gerstenberger in a prepared statement.

It’s not uncommon for you to not be as focused at the beginning or end of the week. A major factor of the accidents reported was the time they occurred. According to the TCIA’s review, Monday and Friday continue to be, by far, the most dangerous days of the week for tree care professionals, with Monday ranking number 1.

Gerstenberger said “It is reasonable to assume that so-called ‘critical error’ behaviours – such as mind-not-on-task or eyes-not-on task – are more prevalent on [Mondays and Fridays],”

Taking a break from the information from the Tree Service Magazine Article.

It is important to stay up to date with regular training, to assess your environment to choose the best tools to use and to always put safety first. These simple things can save you from becoming one of the victims in this article.

Right, back to the data. Aside from being more careful on job sites, what can be done to bring down this number of fatalities?

One answer is more training and education.

There’s a wide range of training providers for tree care professionals here in the UK. A quick search on your favorite internet search engine will get you a list of just a few. You can find a comprehensive list of courses on the Arboricultural Association’s website http://www.trees.org.uk/Training-And-Events

Another way to help expand your knowledge and push your career forwards is to register with the Register of Tree Work Operatives (R2). R2 is an online tool for arboricultural businesses and tree workers record and demonstrate their skills, knowledge and experience. You can learn more at http://www.r2register.co.uk/.

Although repetitiveness isn’t fun, like it or not some things, especially involving your tree care profession are worth repeating, safety is one of those things.

As we have clarified Tree care work is inherently risky, therefore it’s a good idea to brush up and review some basic job site safety practices now while work is slowing down in these winter months. Yes, you’ve all read these before. In fact, many of you probably know these by heart. But often adhering to the simplest of safety practices could have prevented most accidents on job sites.

Look these over. Consider them a friendly reminder. Print this out and hang it on your office bulletin board or leave it on the driver’s seat of your work trucks before they head out in the morning.

Safety tips are worth repeating — especially if they prevent accidents.

The following safety tips were originally published by the International Society of Arboriculture.

Communicate: Each job should begin with a briefing, which coordinates the activities of every worker. This briefing also includes a review of any potential safety hazards, how to prevent them and what personal protection equipment (PPE) is required. All workers must have a clear understanding of the communication system that will be used on the job. Talk to each other when you’re in the field, and don’t ever assume your co-workers are going to be in a certain position, or doing the job you think they’re doing. Talk, look and listen. The voice command and response system ensures warning signals are heard and acted upon. For example, the climber says, “stand clear” but does not proceed until hearing “all clear.” When hearing is difficult, use hand signals.

Safety gear: All workers must wear clothing and footwear appropriate for specific work conditions and weather. This includes proper headgear, hearing protection, protective glasses and face shields, gloves, leg chaps and work boots. Even if these items are uncomfortable and not fashionable, they could be the difference between leaving the job site in your truck or in an ambulance.

Be prepared: It’s recommended, and required in some regions, that all tree workers receive training and first aid and CPR. Also, each truck must keep a fully stocked first aid kit, and all employees must be instructed in the use of these kits and in emergency response procedures. Each worker must know the procedures in an emergency situation, and all climbers should be trained in aerial rescues – which should be practiced regularly. All employees should be instructed on how to identify common poisonous plants and harmful insects that sting or bite.

Vehicles: In addition to the first aid kits, all work vehicles should be equipped with emergency phone numbers, regularly inspected fire extinguishers and traffic control items such as safety cones, warning signs, barriers and flags. Workers must secure any work zone properly before the job starts.
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