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California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating four tree-trimming workplace fatalities from the past six weeks and has launched a statewide safety awareness campaign for tree service companies, landscapers and other businesses.
The state’s Department of Labor Relations announced Wednesday that the four tree-trimming deaths now under investigation by Oakland-based Cal-OHSA include:
Cal/OSHA investigated nearly 70 accidents involving tree work, including trimming or removal services, in the two-year period between Oct, 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2016, the office said Wednesday in a statement. Nearly three out of four of these accidents — 74% — resulted in a worker hospitalization, and 12 of the accidents involved the death of a worker, the office reported. The major causes of tree trimming injuries and fatalities include falls, electrical shock, being struck by a tree branch, chainsaw lacerations, palm tree skirt collapses and ladder accidents.
Cal/OSHA cited the example of a tree service worker in Humboldt County who accidently cut the lanyard used to secure himself to a tree and fell 54 feet to his death on Dec. 30, 2015. The investigation found that the employer failed to ensure the worker was using a required second point of attachment in his security system while he was operating a chain saw in a tree.
As part of what is dubbed the “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 will respond to reports of unsafe operations, according to regulators.
“Cal/OSHA’s safety awareness campaign aims to protect the lives of tree service workers,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum in a statement. “Employers in this high-risk industry need to be aware of, and take steps to minimize, the hazards to their workers. We will cite employers that are not in compliance with safety requirements.”
The Los Angeles region spends the most money in California fighting and closing workers compensation claims, according to a report released by California’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau.