The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) reviewed 128 occupational tree care accidents reported by the media in 2012. Of these accidents, 84 were fatal.The average age of the deceased was 43 and the average age of the serious accident victim was 38.
Super Storm Sandy was a significant contributing cause in fatal accidents in 2012. Six out of 10 fatalities occurring between November 1 and December 31 were storm work-related; and they occurred in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.
Looking at the largest fatal accident categories more closely:
Of the 19 electrocution accidents:
Six victims were electrocuted through conductive tools such as stick saws, pole saws and, in one instance, a rake.
Five victims made direct contact with conductors.
Two victims on the ground touched uninsulated vehicles.
In one case, a crane load line made contact with a primary conductor, energizing the ground around the crane. A worker died when he touched a detached chipper 20 feet away from the crane.
It could not be determined how five of the victims made contact.
Average age of the electrocution victims was 44.
Of the 16 struck-by-tree fatalities:
Six were the fallers, four were other crew members, and it could not be determined what the remaining six were doing at the time of the accident.
In all but one instance, it was the tree being removed that killed the worker.
Average age of the victims was 45.
The 13 struck-by-tree-limb fatalities lacked enough detail for further analysis. The same can be said of the 12 fall-from-tree fatalities except that in two instances the tree failed with the climber in it. In the nine fall-from-aerial-lift accidents, four can be attributed to equipment failure, and one resulted from a tip-over.
These sobering numbers are a stark reminder of the dangers of tree care and highlights the need for tree care companies, along with homeowners/property managers who hire them to uphold the highest standards for worker safety.
“Unfortunately for the industry overall, serious accidents seem to be increasing,” says Peter Gerstenberger, arborist for TCIA. “We need to transform the industry and create a safety culture that will keep all tree workers safe in an inherently hazardous occupation.”