The tree care industry is associated with dangerous work and high risk of injury, which can cost tree care companies precious time, money and resources. But what sort of risks should we be watching out for? What are common causes of injuries? How can we prevent accidents and keep costs low?
To help answer these questions, we’ve compiled and analyzed a list of worker's comp injury claims in the tree care industry for 2012. Read on to learn exactly how tree care workers are at risk on the jobsite, and why you should invest in a robust safety program for your company.
Most expensive injury, per occurrence
Falling or slipping from a ladder – With the highest average claim cost per occurrence of almost $126,000 per claim, even one incident can cause your WC premium to skyrocket. Although this only represents 1 percent of all claims, it accounts for over 9 percent of all the claim costs in the industry.
Avoid this by being sure all employees are tied in when working from a ladder, just like a climber. Train employees and then document on the job with a signed and dated verification sheet that the employees know how to set up and tie-off when working on ladders, including how to stabilize all types of ladders that you have as well as how to use the stabilizing plate for the third foot on orchard ladders.
Most common injury, by percent of claims and percent of overall cost in the industry
Lifting/awkward movements. Over 23 percent of claims come from lifting injuries resulting in over 21 percent of the overall claim costs to the industry. The average cost per claim is over $12,000.
You need a tight injury and illness prevention program to limit these types of claims. It needs to start at the hiring process, you need to have job descriptions that clearly spell out how much weight an employee can lift and carry. You must review these and make sure the potential employee is physically able to perform the job duties.
The potential employee has to answer your questions truthfully. From there, you should train, verify, and document once again how to lift loads properly, how to ask other crew members for help, when to use equipment for lifting, and even how to get in, on, off, and out of trucks, etc. Holding morning stretches and exercises is a great way to avoid injuries as well.
Other sources of injuries
Fall/slip from different levels. This includes falls out of a tree, a bucket, a crane, a roof, and even a truck – basically gravity doesn’t care how your employee fell, just how far. While only a little over 4 percent of the claims are falls from different levels, these injuries account for 15 percent of the overall cost to the industry and have an average cost per claim of over $50,000.
Avoidance is based on training for each job description or task. Is the employee a tree climber or bucket operator? As well as what is the job task at hand? Are they working on a roof to remove a tree, standing on a truck, etc.?
Struck by object being handled. This includes pieces of trees, or whole trees, being rigged and lowered (or lifted, planted, and/or moved) by ropes, cranes, and grapple loaders, etc. It does not include free falling items. These injuries account for almost 13 percent of all claims and over 8 percent of the total cost to the industry. The average cost per claim is over $9,000.
The total average of all claims in the tree care industry was almost $14,000 per claim in 2012. With an industry median WC premium of over $53,000, only a couple average claims can get the average tree company into a bad situation. Your only defense is training, verification that the training took, and enforcement with an injury and illness prevention program. The flip side is that safety and training can easily become a profit center for you, paying for itself quickly, with the added benefits of improving employee morale and professionalism.
Need help keeping the jobsite safe for your tree care work? TCIA has resources for you. Visit the Safety section of our website to learn more about our credentialing and educational programs, or browse our Safety Resources to download our safety program checklists, fact sheets, flow charts, safety statistics and much more.
Photo Credit: Dick Harris, Portland (Oregon) Fire & Rescue.