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OSHA's safety guidelines for tree care workers

In New York, as elsewhere, the tree care industry is one of the most hazardous. According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, landscape service workers make up 3.5 percent of all workplace fatalities despite composing less than 1 percent of the nation's workforce. Approximately 75 percent of these fatalities are related to tree trimming or removal with the three leading causes of death being falls, struck-by incidents and electrical accidents.

While the Tree Care Industry Association has been petitioning OSHA for a federal tree care standard since 2006, none is forthcoming. However, OSHA's Spring 2018 regulatory agenda does call for a panel on potential tree care rules by April 2019. OSHA has always held the tree care industry to various other federal standards. Its safety recommendations are summarized below.

Employers should train workers to identify and avoid hazards while at the same time conducting inspections of their own. They should also create a safety program, which can cover job-specific issues like falls and the risk for heat-related illness and exhaustion. Workers should be monitored on a regular basis.

As for employees, they should never use climbing belts, harnesses and saddles improperly. When trimming or removing trees, they can create safety zones underneath. They should also avoid power lines and energized objects. Drinking water can reduce the risk for heat-related illnesses.

Not all accidents can be avoided, though. In cases where the employer has workers' compensation insurance, workplace accident victims may file a claim to be reimbursed for most of their losses, including their medical expenses and short- or long-term disability leave. If the victim dies, a family member or other eligible dependent may file for death benefits. Claims can be denied, but a lawyer may assist with the appeal.

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