Cal/OSHA Cites Tree Trimming Company after Brush Chipper Fatality

On Aug. 15, 2017, the employee was working on a crew removing limbs from a tree when a rope used to lower limbs from an aerial bucket was caught and pulled into the chipper, strangling him.

Cal/OSHA has cited Gorilla Tree Service for serious and accident-related workplace safety violations following an investigation of a brush chipper accident that killed a 24-year-old worker in Napa, Calif. On Aug. 15, 2017, the employee was working on a crew removing limbs from a tree when a rope used to lower limbs from an aerial bucket was caught and pulled into the chipper, strangling him, the agency reported.

Cal/OSHA's investigation found that the company was unable to certify it had properly trained the worker, who had been employed there for about six months. Cal/OSHA cited Gorilla Tree Service $23,200 for seven violations, including one serious accident-related, one serious violation, and five general violations for the employer's failure to:

  • Provide documented training records for workers, certifying that they had completed the required tree work and CPR training
  • Brief workers before beginning the job, including descriptions of hazards, work procedures, and appropriate protective equipment
  • Ensure the chipper was equipped, maintained, and operated in accordance with manufacturer recommendations
  • Prevent entanglement hazards and unwanted material from entering the point of operation on the chipper

Tree workers are 56 times more likely to suffer a fatal occupational injury than workers in all industries combined, the agency noted.

"Tree work is a high-risk industry, and safety requirements are in place to protect workers from known hazards," Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum said. "Employers must ensure that workers are effectively trained to use brush chippers and other dangerous machinery safely."

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