Whether in New Jersey or another state, tree care is one of the most dangerous industries. Surprisingly, there is no OSHA standard regarding the safety of tree care employees; the agency currently relies on a miscellany of rules and regulations to keep tree care employers informed about serious hazards and how to prevent them.
In early February, OSHA released a two-page guidance documentthat addresses five major hazards in the tree care industry and gives tips on how to prevent them from causing injuries and death. It also lists resources for those who wish to know more about each hazard. The five are: traffic and pedestrian control, wood chippers, aerial lifts, power lines, and drop zones.
Each hazard comes with several risk factors. For example, those on aerial lifts are in danger of being electrocuted and falling. Thus, OSHA advises employers to ensure that their workers wear safety harnesses with a lanyard attached to the lift and that they stay at least 10 feet away from power lines. On sloped surfaces, workers should stop the wheels of their chippers and other equipment with chocks.
Tree trimmers should also maintain clear communication with those below so that nobody stands in the drop zone when tree limbs fall. Other advice is more general. For instance, lifts and work sites should be inspected prior to starting work.
When a work-related injury occurs, the victim has a choice between filing for workers’ compensation and suing the employer. When no negligence is involved in the accident, the former is the better option. Still, it might be a good idea to retain a lawyer for the filing process. Workers’ comp attorneys might bring in investigators and other experts to back up the victim’s claim and ensure the maximum settlement. The lawyer may also negotiate on the client’s behalf.