Arborists, Tree Fellers and Trimmers
Among the wide variety of occupations that involve significant risk of injury or death, workers in the tree trimming profession are particularly vulnerable. While facing similar risks as those who are involved in high-rise building construction or window cleaning work, arborists and tree trimmers work not only spend a great deal of their time working at great heights, but they also handle potentially dangerous tools, such as manual or gas-powered chain saws.
A fall from even a modest height can be fatal, but injuries to ground crews can also result from falling limbs and sections of heavy tree trunk. Individuals who work in this type of job are also exposed to changes in weather, which can increase the risks that are already present. In addition to wind, rain, and unexpected lightning strikes, the threat of electrocution from contact with electric utility lines also poses a significant risk to tree maintenance workers. Persons in this physically demanding field typically understand the risks, but no matter what the level of awareness, no one should ever be exposed to unnecessary hazards due to poor worksite management or third-party negligence.
As knowledgeable death benefit claims lawyers, the professionals at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall understand New Jersey workers’ compensation statutes, as well as possess decades of collective experience helping families who lost loved ones to deadly commercial accidents. We understand that while risks to workers always exist, fatalities suffered by tree trimming employees could often be prevented had proper procedures and safety practices been in place and vigorously enforced.Fatal Workplace Accident Claims Attorneys
Despite efforts to protect workers from the unnecessary risks and dangerous workplace environments, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that fatal injuries to arborists and tree maintenance employees include the following, in order of frequency:
- Falling from tree or aerial work platform
- Struck by a falling trunk or tree limb
- Electrocution following contact with power lines
Whether on a residential street, municipal park or private golf course, tree fellers work with very sharp manual saws as well as gas or electric chainsaws and the potentially dangerous environment experienced by these workers is commonplace. Some fatal tree trimming accidents are program-related, which means that a safety rule was violated. Depending on the reasons for the violation, negligence may be the root cause. If so, a seasoned death benefit claims attorney has the training and experience to understand the case and help the victim’s family get the compensation they deserve.
Natural disasters — such as the flooding from Hurricane Sandy and other coastal storms — require quick response to repair New Jersey’s infrastructure. High winds and floodwaters present additional dangers to tree trimming crews working to cut and clear fallen trees, all of which can result in injury accidents and fatalities during emergency operations. During such events, the damaged trees themselves become a safety hazard to emergency response and recovery workers charged with tree cutting.
Working at great heights, either with belaying rigs or through the use of aerial lifts, tree trimming workers are constantly using chainsaws to cut branches and limbs, or section trunks for removal. During intensive efforts following the wake of a large-scale storm, the role of an experienced foreman is especially important, particularly when it comes to addressing dead and decayed trees, which can be unstable and pose significant danger to workers. Needless to say, wood chipper accidents have also been known to occur, often as a result of careless operation or when employees are fatigued or overworked.
Many of the frequently cited Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards for the tree care industry are included in the general industry standards (OSHA Reg. 29 CFR 1910). For Landscaping Services, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code is 561730. Some of the more typical OSHA standards pertaining to tree trimming and maintenance businesses include the following:
- Recording/reporting of worker injuries/illnesses (OSHA Reg. 29 CFR 1904), including the reporting of fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye(s) as a result of work-related incidents (1904.39)
- Walking-working surfaces, including portable wood and metal ladders, manually propelled mobile ladder stands, scaffolds and towers (OSHA Reg. 29 CFR 1910, Subpart D)
- Exposure to hazardous materials (OSHA Reg. 29 CFR 1910, Subpart H) or flammable liquids (1910.106)
- Personal protective equipment (including respiratory protection and mandatory respirator cleaning procedures; foot and hand protection (OSHA Reg. 29 CFR 1910, Subpart I)
Occasionally, another employee may be responsible for the deceased worker’s death. In the area of tree cutting and maintenance, it is critical that the feller check to be certain that other employees are out of harm’s way before making any cuts. Other aspects of tree trimming safety include understanding the angle of the tree being cut; wind conditions; locations of nearby trees; proper use of wedges and ropes; planning a safe path of retreat in advance; and making the proper back cut that leaves sufficient hinge wood to help guide the direction of the tree’s fall.
As workers' compensation experts, we believe that it is the responsibility of the business owner to protect his or her employees. Owners of arborist services and tree trimming companies should ensure that supervisors and worksite foremen have the proper skills and experience to competently oversee workers and train new employees regarding workplace safety requirements, as well as informing workers of job hazards and the safeguards that need to be in place before starting their assigned jobs.Workers’ Compensation Death Benefit Claims
The legal professionals at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are dedicated to helping victims’ families understand the survivor claims process. Our New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer, Daniel Santarsiero, Esq., has broad knowledge in this area and can provide helpful guidance survivors so that they may recover the death benefit compensation due to them under New Jersey law.
It is important to understand that when workers’ comp insurance is involved, widows and dependent children are not permitted to sue the victim’s employer for other damages; but in cases where another individual or business was responsible for a fatal workplace accident, there could be sufficient grounds to bring a legal claim against that third party.
If you have lost a loved one to a negligence-related tree trimming accident, we strongly urge you to contact a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your case. For questions about workers’ comp death benefits, survivor claims and third-party lawsuits, our legal team is ready and able to discuss your case. Please feel free to contact our offices at (800) 999-0897 to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.