The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) compiled information on 408 occupational tree care accidents that occurred in the United States over a five year period (2009 – 2013).
“As far as we could determine, the victims – regardless of their professional background, title or employment status – were engaged in tree trimming or removal operations for pay at the time of their demise,” says Peter Gerstenberger, Senior Advisor to the President of TCIA for Safety, Standards and Compliance.
“We don’t hold this information out to be encompassing of all fatal accidents. It is limited by the thoroughness of our search criteria as well as the news media’s thoroughness in reporting an occurrence on any given day,” Gerstenberger adds.
Summary of Findings
Chart 1 ranks the accidents by the primary cause of death. The most common causes of death were Falls from Trees and Struck-by Trees, followed closely by Electrocutions and Struck by Branch. The median age of the deceased was 42.
Analysis of Electrocution Accidents
Electricity is consistently one of the leading causes of worker fatalities in the tree care industry, as evidenced by Chart 1 and Chart 2.
Half of all incidents were directly attributable to use of conductive tools such as uninsulated lifts and aluminum ladders in close proximity to conductors.
This evidence suggests that the victims were not line clearance tree trimmers, who would have been supplied with insulated lifts and safe, non-conductive tools.
TCIA scrutinized the data to determine how TCIA member companies fare when it comes to serious and fatal accident. An interesting correlation emerged: TCIA member companies have a much lower fatality rate than non-member companies.
"Our best estimate is that our membership accounts for approximately 75 percent of the business volume of tree care in the U.S., and thus has 75 percent of all exposure to hazards,” Gerstenberger explains.
“Despite the exposure, our members only comprise 9 percent of the fatalities recorded in this five-year period. This is a testament to TCIA Members’ professionalism generally, and specifically to their hiring practices, policies and procedures, equipment and training that allows them to provide a safer workplace than their non-member counterparts,” Gerstenberger adds.
This blog post is an excerpt from "Five-year analysis of fatal tree care accidents," which appeared in the June 2014 Reporter. Click here to read the full article.