There are a variety of hazards in the tree care industry that can cause serious or fatal injuries. Some of the most common causes of injury are electrocution, falls and falling objects. Luckily, many of the injuries and fatalities are preventable if proper precautions are taken.
Employers are responsible for the safety of all tree-care employees. Providing free protective equipment and proper training are part of that responsibility. As an employee, if you feel as if you’re lacking the resources you need to do your job safely, speak up. Always notify your employer of any safety concerns and hazards you witness.
Before beginning any tree-care operation, workers should adhere to the following best practices:
- Assess the worksite for fall and falling object hazards.
- Make sure a qualified arborist surveys the worksite to identify the types of trees involved, as well as any possible hazards that are specific to each type.
- Determine if rigging is necessary to prevent sections of the tree from falling while working on it.
- Determine if you will need to climb a ladder or use aerial lifts to service the tree. Make sure climbing equipment is well-maintained and in working condition. Both ladders and aerial lifts should be kept at least 10 feet away from power lines and other electrical equipment.
- Establish and mark drop zones with safety equipment where there is a hazard of falling objects.
- Ensure that you’re aware of procedures for safely entering the drop zone.
- If you’re a ground worker, maintain a safe distance of at least 10 feet from tree-felling operations.
- When using a rope to fell a tree, maintain a distance of at least two times the height of the tree.
- Establish a visual or audible communication system between overhead workers and ground workers before starting rigging operations.
- Have emergency procedures in place prior to the start of tree care.
- Verify that every worker knows the address of the worksite for emergency services.
- Determine if the worksite has cellular telephone coverage.
- Establish a retreat path for ground workers so they can escape from falling trees.
Electricity and Tree Care
Electricity is one of the leading causes of death for tree-care workers. Tree branches can sometimes be close to power lines, and when trees are uprooted by powerful storms, there is a chance they can take power lines and transformers down with them. Live power lines can pose serious hazards if not fixed properly.
Tree-care workers need to know how to stay safe in such conditions. Here are some important tips for preventing injuries:
- If there is a power line present, never assume that it is safe to touch. In fact, assume that all power lines are energized at all times. If necessary, consider asking the utility company to de-energize nearby power lines.
- Assess the worksite for fall hazards and falling object hazards. Anticipate when limbs might fall onto power sources.
- Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet from overhead lines, and more than 10 feet if the voltage to ground is over 50 kilovolts.
- Avoid direct and indirect contact with an energized conductor, such as a power line or a tool touching a power line.
- Wear proper gloves and shoes for hazards present wherever tree work is being performed. Properly insulated footwear and other personal protective equipment is necessary in case electricity travels through the ground unexpectedly.
- Stand away from grounding elements, as power can travel through the ground.
- When electrical hazards are present, use rope that provides appropriate insulation and is free of moisture and contaminants.
- Have an emergency plan. It only takes a moment for a fatality to occur. Always stay alert and be prepared for potential hazards, and make sure workers know what to do in an emergency should one occur.