Dealing with trees is often the province of landscapers, but construction jobs sometimes involve arboreal concerns as well. Another area of crossover includes companies offering a mix of services, including some landscaping and construction. Contracting crews have to deal with trees during initial build site preparations, and when it comes to repairs on homes and commercial businesses. Because construction projects will need to deal with the trimming or even removal of trees on a regular basis, building firms need to make sure they're ready to deal with the potentially life-threatening safety issues that can arise. To promote education and safety as they relate to trees, the Occupational and Safety and Health Administration is hosting a program on these issues in some areas of the U.S. this summer, including the 5-state Philadelphia region that includes all of Pennsylvania and Virginia, along with Washington, D.C.
The Charleston Daily Mail, a West Virginia newspaper, pointed out that a string of accidents related to tree care and removal on work sites occurred in the region during the past four years, including 47 fatalities. The nationwide fatality rate for tree-related, on-the-job incidents was 243 in 2012, the most recent numbers provided by OSHA. The safety oversight organization will be conducting more inspections in the Philadelphia region, as well as offer assistance with compliance and outreach activities.
"Tree trimming and clearing can be hazardous work that results in worker fatalities," MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA regional administrator, told the Daily Mail. "It is vital that employers take the necessary steps to protect workers engaged in these activities."
A Glance at the Steps for Compliance
While the quick guide provided here isn't nearly as comprehensive as the information on OSHA's website, a review of the concepts below can help contractors identify if and where they need to improve their tree-related safety efforts:
- Personal protective equipment: Contractors have to complete a written hazard assessment and ensure employees are using the correct level of protection for the environment they're working in.
- Right to know: The potential hazards of a worksite have to be communicated to employees. Not only is this a general best practice, it is also required by OSHA. Considering the unique dangers related to trees, such as excavation weakening root systems and resulting in increased risk of toppling, is important in this respect.
- Training: Employers need to provide a certain level of training for employees in hazardous situations, as well as when they deal with complicated equipment.