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January 17, 2024
OSHA Region 2 launches tree, landscaping enforcement program

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Region 2 office has launched a regional emphasis program (REP) to reduce worker fatalities and injuries in the tree and landscape services industries in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the agency announced January 11.

The new REP includes two elements:

  • The program will begin with an initial and ongoing outreach to employers, employees, and stakeholders to raise their awareness of the hazards associated with tree trimming and landscape operations.
  • After the first 3 months of outreach, OSHA will conduct targeted safety and health inspections of tree trimming and removal, landscaping services, and site preparation contractors to assess employer compliance, aiming to reduce employees’ exposure to hazards.

“We want to make these workplaces safer for all workers in this industry,” Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s Region 2 administrator, said in an agency statement. “By intensifying our focus on the tree and landscaping industries, we can help employers provide effective management of worker safety and health protection to reduce the extent and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses.” 

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2022 that 222 workers in the industries suffered fatal workplace injuries and illnesses nationwide. Causes of fatal injuries included being struck by vehicles and falling branches and trees, chemical exposures, electrocution, falls from trees and elevated work platforms, and heat.

Workplace hazards in the tree and landscaping industries include the use of heavy equipment such as chippers, cranes, grapplers, loaders, and stump grinders; working at heights on aerial lifts and other devices; climbing, trimming, and removing trees; and operating powered equipment. OSHA’s REP is focused on dangers that include amputations, falls, noise, and electrical and struck-by injuries.

The REP is scheduled to run through fall 2028.

There’s no existing tree care industry standard, but OSHA is developing one in response to an industry petition. The agency held stakeholder meetings in 2016, completed a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review of the rulemaking in 2020, and plans to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) soon. The tree care industry proposal is one of OSHA’s six economically significant rulemakings.

Florida landscaper facing $166K OSHA fine

TruScapes Industries Inc. of Bradenton, Florida, is facing $166,305 in OSHA fines after a 36-year-old mower operator drowned when the mower rolled over into a pond, pinning the worker underwater, OSHA announced January 10.

The worker was riding a zero-turn lawnmower in a residential neighborhood when it tipped over into a water retention pond. OSHA investigators learned that the machine’s rollover protection system was not engaged while operating on a sloping embankment near the pond and that the equipment was operated on a slope that exceeded the limitations specified in the equipment manual.

The agency cited the employer for one willful violation for not having a rollover protection system in use and for operating equipment on a steep slope and one serious violation for not providing potable water for drinking.

OSHA previously cited TruScapes after another fatal incident in Bradenton in July 2015.

“Once again, TruScapes Industries’ failure to implement required safety measures has cost the life of a worker,” Danelle Jindra, OSHA’s Tampa, Florida, area office director, said in a statement. “Employers are responsible for ensuring the correct equipment is used for each change in the work environment and that workers are protected from hazards associated with assigned job tasks.” 

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