Tree Care Workers Need a Safety Standard
OSHA Must Act Now to Establish a Tree Care Industry-Specific Safety Standard to Protect Some of the Nation’s Most At-Risk Workers
Tree care is dangerous work.
Tree care is dangerous work. Sadly, in one 12-month period (May 2020 through April 2021), TCIA documented over 200 serious occupational incidents among people engaged in tree care. The industry is routinely identified as one of the most hazardous in the country by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Despite the widespread recognition about the inherent dangers of tree care work, OSHA largely regulates tree care through a patchwork of standards intended for other industries. Equipped with standards that only peripherally address tree care issues, OSHA inspectors, small businesses, and tree care workers run the risk of overlooking serious work site hazards or misidentifying the practices and procedures that best mitigate the risk of work-related illness or injuries. This dysfunctional approach to compliance and enforcement wastes government and industry resources, leads to unnecessary litigation, and fails to provide any clear guidance to employers, workers, and OSHA officers as to what are the most effective safety measures for the industry.
Since the late 1990s, TCIA has called on OSHA to issue a workplace safety standard for the industry. The association formally petitioned the agency for a rulemaking in 2006 and, since then, has advocated for the agency to move forward with the rulemaking process.
Fortunately, OSHA’s job could not be easier. Stakeholders from all corners of the industry – employers, employees, organized labor, equipment manufacturers, academia, and others – came together to develop the ideal safety standard for tree care operations – the ANSI Z133 standard. Developed through a consensus process by an accredited standards committee representing the entire industry, the ANSI Z133 standard captures the collective wisdom and experience of the entire profession.
OSHA should use the ANSI Z133 standard as a template for an industry-specific workplace safety standard. TCIA urges OSHA to finish this decades-long process and provide an appropriate safety standard that will fully protect our workers from the risks inherent to the industry.
About the Standard, Our Efforts & Congressional Support
2008 Bipartisan Senate Letter to the Department of Labor from Senators Edward Kennedy, Patty Murray, Michael B. Enzi, and Johnny Isakson
2007 Bipartisan Senate Letter Urging DOL to Immediately Initiate the Rulemaking Process by Senators Edward Kennedy, Patty Murray, Michael B. Enzi, and Johnny Isakson
The Tree Care Industry Association represents approximately 1,700 businesses engaged in commercial arboriculture (tree care) and related industries in the United States that employ more than 150,000 people, or nearly seventy-five percent of all tree care workers in the country. TCIA is committed to the safety of the industry’s workforce and develops safety and education programs, standards of tree care practice, and management information for tree and landscape firms around the world. To enhance safety in the industry, TCIA launched and operates the Certified Treecare Safety Professionals program, the Model Company Safety Program, and the Arborist Safety Training Institute.