According to data gathered by the Tree Care Industry Association, tree trimming accidents led to the deaths of approximately 580 workers nationwide, between 2009 and 2015. Reportedly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is concerned about the high number of workplace fatalities in this industry, including in Missouri, and the agency is working on developing safety rules for arborists. Another worker recently died after a work accident in which a falling branch struck him.
According to a police report, the incident occurred in a neighboring state after a tree service was contracted to cut down a tree at a private residence on a recent Saturday afternoon. Shortly after 1 p.m., one worker was struck by a limb of the tree that was cut off by a co-worker who was up in the tree. The injured worker was rushed to a medical facility, but he was pronounced dead less than 15 minutes after the accident.
Although no safety regulations exist that are specific to the tree-trimming industry yet, OSHA says basic safety procedures for circumstances in which there are dangers of falling objects striking workers must be followed. Drop zones must be established, and workers must be trained in the safety protocols related to entering drop zones. Personal protective equipment must be provided, such as hard hats to provide protection for the workers at lower levels than those cutting down the trees and safety harnesses to protect workers who fall from trees.
The surviving family members of this 20-year-old worker who was killed in a work accident will have to cope with the high costs of a funeral and burial. Fortunately, the Missouri workers’ compensation insurance system allows dependents of workplace fatality victims to pursue claims for death benefits. Along with coverage of end-of-life expenses, the insurance program also provides compensation for lost wages in the form of a financial package that is based on the deceased worker’s average weekly remuneration.