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OSHA recommends safe practices for tree care workers

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has stated that though landscape workers make up less than 1 percent of the nation's workforce, they compose 3.5 percent of workplace fatalities. Among those fatalities, 75 percent are related to tree removal or trimming. The three leading causes are falls, struck-by incidents and electrical accidents. Tree care workers in Missouri should know, however, that OSHA has provided safety recommendations.

OSHA's Spring 2018 regulatory agenda calls for a panel to discuss the possibility of promulgating a federal standard for tree care by April 2019. The Tree Care Industry Association has been petitioning for such a standard since 2006, but in the meantime, OSHA has the following recommendations to regulate the industry.

Employers are called to develop safety programs and establish safe practices based on input from workers. These programs can cover the prevention of job-specific issues like fall hazards and the threat of illness or exhaustion. It's up to employers to train workers and ensure regular compliance.

Employees should inspect their climbing belts, harnesses and saddles and use them properly at all times. They should understand the limitations of their machinery. When possible, they are to avoid power lines. It's also important to create safety zones under trees that are being trimmed or removed. Drinking plenty of water will help prevent heat-related illness.

Following all of these practices, though, will not guarantee that all accidents will be prevented. Those who are injured through their own negligence can still file for workers' compensation benefits to be covered for their medical expenses and lost wages. The program may also cover short- or long-term disability, and in the case of a fatality, it should pay out death benefits. A lawyer may help ensure a smooth filing process and even mount an appeal if the claim is denied.

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