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OSHA publishes tree care safety guidelines

Tree care businesses in Connecticut and across the U.S. will benefit from the new safety guidelines that OSHA has published specifically for them. Its guidance document covers five majors hazards that tree care employers and employees face.

The first is lack of car and pedestrian traffic control. The document explains the risk factors and guides employers on how to keep workers safe from moving vehicles. This is closely connected to another hazard, falling objects. OSHA recommends drop zones for tree limbs and clear communication between ground workers and the tree trimmers overhead. A third deals with power lines, which can endanger trimmers if they are entangled in the tree.

The other two hazards concern important pieces of equipment, namely chippers and aerial lifts. Outriggers should have the brakes applied, and wheel chocks should be used on sloped surfaces. Harnesses and restraining belts are required for those on aerial lifts. Tree care is fraught with hazards, yet a previous petition from within the industry to create permanent OSHA regulations fell through. A lack of resources prevented OSHA from going beyond the stage of issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. It is to be hoped that this new document can help towards decreasing tree worker injuries and fatalities.

Tree trimmers who fall, are electrocuted, are hit by a falling tree limb, or incur some other injury may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. In accepting these benefits, claimants waive the right to file a lawsuit against their employer, even if there was gross negligence. In some cases, however, a lawsuit can be maintained against a non-employer third party, such as a negligent motorist or the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment.

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