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Tree service worker’s death leads to $142,000 in fines


A New York tree-cutting company is facing $141,811 in proposed penalties from federal workplace safety regulators after a 23-year-old worker died on his first day on the job.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Albany, New York-based Countryside Tree Service for one willful violation after Justus Booze died in May after a wood chipper pulled him into the machine, according to an agency press release issued on Monday.

OSHA inspectors determined that Countryside owner Tony Watson exposed Mr. Booze and other coworkers to the danger of being caught in the machine's rotating parts and failed to train them in the safe operation of wood chippers, according to the press release. The agency also found the employer did not ensure workers used safe operating procedures when feeding materials into the chipper, exposing them to deadly hazards.

The company was also cited for three serious violations for exposing employees to laceration and amputation hazards and eye hazards during tree removal, failing to ensure they were trained to use personal protective equipment and to wear a protective helmet.

"A young man's life ended tragically and needlessly," Robert Garvey, OSHA's Albany area director, said in a statement. "Putting employees to work with potentially dangerous machines with no safety training is unacceptable. Tree service companies must train workers — climbers, trimmers and ground crew — properly. These workers must also be instructed in safe work practices and use of equipment including chain saws, cutters and especially hand-fed wood chippers that cut and grind branches and logs into pulp."

Mr. Watson could not be immediately reached for comment. 



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