OSHA Recommends Tree Care Operations Standard

Jessica Cofer Blog

Those of us who work in the tree care industry know that it can be filled with hazards, including falling from trees, being struck by falling trees or branches, and being injured or killed during chainsaw or wood chipper operation, as well as exposure to energized power lines.

Through its preliminary research, OSHA believes that there are currently unsafe or hazardous conditions for working men and women performing tree care operations that could be improved through a federal regulation. This research is outlined in its Preliminary Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (PIRFA).

Some of OSHA’s key findings outlined in the PIRFA include:

  • the rulemaking is preliminarily estimated to affect approximately 350,000 employees employed at about 53,000 establishments
  • the tree care industry’s fatality rate for tree care operations makes tree trimming and pruning among the most hazardous occupations in the country

In an effort to address these hazards, OSHA proposed a potential Tree Care Operations standard, which would be a new standard in 29 CFR Part 1910: Tree Care Operations.

The primary focus of the potential standard, “would be to protect workers who prune, repair, maintain, or remove trees (tree care), or perform on-site support of tree care, such as workers who pick-up and dispose of limbs or branches or use the on-site equipment. Among other requirements, a potential standard would address the safe use of tools and equipment associated with tree care and on-site support of tree care.”

Small Business Advocacy Review Panel

Earlier this year, in accordance with the requirements of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), OSHA convened a Small Business Advocacy Review panel to review the potential standard. Over the course of a couple of months, the panel reviewed the PIRFA and the Tree Care Operations Standard supplied by OSHA. They also participated in small-group teleconferences (that were open to the public) in April to discuss the information provided and how a draft regulation may affect their businesses. Topics discussed included training, worksite conditions, workplace hazards and safe work practices, among others.

Final Report Filed

In May, the final draft of the Report of the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel on OSHA’s Potential Tree Care Operations Standard was completed and filed on Regulations.gov on June 11, 2020. (To download the entire report, please click here.)

The report also addresses conversations around the definition of a tree; cranes in tree care operations; incorporating the ANSI Z133 standard into OSHA’s Potential Tree Care Operations Standard; and the importance of aerial rescue training, safety and health programs; and PPE, among many other topics.

Findings and Recommendations

In the final draft of the report, the panel shares its findings and recommendations on a myriad topics.

First and foremost, the panel preliminary recommends the need for a standard “that addresses tree care operations that pose a significant risk of serious injury or death to employees, such as removing large trees, removing trees using cranes, or climbing and working in trees to prune or remove them.”

The report also outlines specific provisions, economic impacts, and proposed alternatives of the proposed Tree Care Operations standard.

As an organization focused on the health and safety of everyone in the tree care industry, NATS supports an OSHA Tree Care Operations standard. With this standard, our industry will have the resources needed to safely perform our jobs so at the end of the day, we all return home safely to our friends and family.

We are offering OSHA 10 and 30 outreach trainings as a way to address the hazardous conditions identified by OSHA in their industry impact analysis.  Visit our website to learn more and to register. 

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