Tree work regularly piques the interest of spectators, gripped by the unique and often massive equipment as well as the environment in which arborists operate. Recently, a group of spectators vital to defining the future of tree care experienced an insightful display of industry craft.
On September 7, 2022, TCIA arranged an afternoon demonstration for Federal OSHA. The Association provided OSHA a fresh and relevant display of critical work practices TCIA promotes among membership as a means to lower accident rates and improve worker safety, specifically the practice of hoisting climbers via the crane access method. Occurring ahead of the expected December proposal of a tree care operations standard, this timely demonstration provided insight into our industry’s crane use method that often does not conform with current OSHA standards.
The event took place in the Washington D.C. suburb of Rockville, Maryland on the campus of Montgomery College. Audience members included eleven key individuals from Federal OSHA, three compliance folks from Virginia OSHA, one representative from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and one professional staff member from the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.
Our engaged audience included Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Douglas Parker, Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA, James Frederick, and other important professionals from OSHA’s leadership, enforcement, standards writing, and legal divisions. Despite a light summer rain, attendees remained engaged throughout the demonstration posing numerous questions regarding crane utilization, tree access alternatives, and worksite hazards.
At the center of the demonstration was a very dead and hazardous 105-foot tulip poplar, inaccessible to a bucket truck or compact lift, and definitely not climb-able. A lightning strike caused it to fracture down the center, killing the tree and leading to extensive decay. Upon the first cut to the tree, several gallons of water gushed out, demonstrating the nature of the tree’s compromised integrity that would have proven hazardous to any arborist who would have unwisely decided to climb the tree. Located within striking distance of the college’s parking lot, the tree’s presence risked threatening people and property, requiring its removal. The combined factors of the tree’s location and health made it an ideal candidate for the demonstration—visibly defining to OSHA how the crane reduces risk throughout the work cycle.
It is critical to acknowledge and thank those who helped us. Bob Mead, CTSP, is Owner & COO of Mead Tree and Turf Care, an accredited, 32-year TCIA member company based in Woodbine, MD. He, his operations and business management teams put in significant effort to ensure the event was a success. We express appreciation to the City of Rockville for selecting an accredited TCIA member to safely perform its objective of removing the tulip poplar and to Montgomery College, who allowed attendees and the crew to utilize its parking lot as a site location.
Bob Mead operated the crane during the demonstration, precisely placing Jorge Rosa at the correct positions to make cuts. Jorge made his work look effortless as he masterfully navigated the cut plan and maintained communications via Bluetooth with Bob and two arborists on the ground, Andrew Coon and Shauna O’Malley. The tree’s advanced deterioration forced the crew into allowing the climber to remain attached to the crane after it came under load from the cut limbs. The picks were kept well below 50% of the crane’s capacity, and Jorge quickly descended to the ground, pulled his line and moved out of harm’s way before the crane lift and swung the load.
We are pleased to say that due to the insightful and high-quality work provided by the Mead Tree and Turf Care team and our Peter Gerstenberger that OSHA staff, including leadership, left the demonstration with a greater understanding of the industry and TCIA’s focus on workplace safety ahead of its proposal of an industry separate standard.