|New Jersey Case Report: 03NJ043
Report Date: November 30, 2004
On June 13, 2003, a 39-year-old Hispanic male arborist’s helper
was killed when he was struck by a tree that was being cut down. The incident
occurred at a private residence as a tree-trimming crew was finishing
the removal of 12 trees from the front yard. The owner of the company
had placed the bucket of a front-end loader against the tree to help direct
its fall. He then made the cuts near the bottom of the tree trunk. The
tree fell approximately 90 degrees left of where he had planned, towards
the helper who was standing near the front of the home to load debris
into a wood chipper. The owner shouted a warning to the workers, but the
victim apparently did not hear it due to the noise from the chipper. The
top of the tree struck him on the head as it fell to the ground. NJ FACE
investigators recommend following these safety guidelines to prevent similar
- Employees should use proper tree removal and communication methods
as outlined in the ANSI Standard Z133.1-2000.
- All employers and employees involved in tree work should receive training
in arborist methods and equipment use.
- Employers should conduct a job hazard analysis of all work activities
with the participation of the workers.
On June 12, 2003, a county Medical Examiner’s office informed NJ
FACE staff of a worker killed in a work-related incident. A FACE investigator
contacted the company owner on June 20, 2003, and mailed him information
on the NJ FACE Project. The owner responded and was later interviewed
on August 23, 2003, after arranging an appointment that would not interfere
with his work. On October 28, 2003, the FACE investigator traveled to
the incident site to photograph the area and briefly interview the homeowner.
Additional information was obtained from the police report, the medical
examiner’s report, and the OSHA investigation file.
The victim’s employer was a small, family-owned tree-trimming company
that had been operating since 1972. The company had four employees at
the time of the incident: the owner, his partner (wife), and two helpers.
The owner started the business when he was 17 years old by doing part-time
lawn work for neighbors. His work increased and he expanded the business,
buying more equipment and hiring employees to help him. He later started
doing tree-trimming work. The owner stated that he was mostly self-taught,
learning the business through trial-and-error and by asking colleagues
that were more experienced. He stated that he always did all of the climbing
and cutting. Later, his wife became an active partner who operated the
equipment and vehicles.
The victim was a 39-year-old Hispanic laborer who was originally from
Mexico. His roommate, who had worked for the company in the past, had
referred him to the job. The employer stated that the victim had prior
landscaping experience but did not have any experience with tree trimming.
The owner, who did not speak Spanish, stated that that the victim spoke
limited English. Hired as a helper, the victim was on his third day of
work when the incident occurred. His wife in Mexico survived him.
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The site of the incident was a private home located in a wooded suburban
area. The homeowner had contracted with the company to remove 12 trees
from the front yard of the house. This was being done because the home
owner wanted to thin out the pine trees to give the other trees room to
The incident occurred on Friday, June 12, 2003. On that morning, the
crew met at another site to complete a job begun the previous day to finish
the removal of approximately 115 trees. The crew then traveled to the
incident site, arriving at approximately 10:00 a.m. The crew consisted
of the company owner, who did all the cutting, his partner (wife) who
drove the company truck and operated the front-end loader, and two helpers.
The victim was working for his third day as a helper; the other helper
was a new employee working his first day on the job.
Once on site, the owner set up a truck-mounted aerial lift (cherry-picker)
and raised himself into the trees, where he cut down the branches. The
helpers collected the fallen branches and fed them into a wood chipper
set up by the front of the house. Once the branches were removed, the
owner and his wife cut down the tree. They used a front-end loader with
the bucket raised and forced against the tree, intending to apply lateral
force to help direct the fall of the tree. After positioning the loader,
the owner cut the tree close to the ground with a chainsaw. The felled
trees were then cut into sections for disposal.
1. Incident Site
The morning passed without incident as the crew cut down the trees. At
about 12:30 p.m., the owner began work on cutting down the last tree.
His wife had left the site earlier to empty a truck load of wood chips.
The two helpers were busy clearing branches and feeding them into the
chipper near the front of the house. Without his wife to help him, the
owner set the front-end loader against the tree by himself. The tree was
located near the center of the yard and was about 30 feet tall and 12
inches in diameter. After setting the loader, the owner checked the site
and cut the tree. As it fell, he saw that it was falling about 90 degrees
in the wrong direction, towards the helpers. The owner shouted a warning
but was not heard over the noise of the chipper. He yelled a second warning
and said that the victim saw the tree, but it was too late. It struck
him on the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. The homeowner,
a nurse, heard the noise and called 911 for help. She then went to help
the victim, who was having trouble breathing. Police and EMS paramedics
arrived and transported the victim to a Level II Trauma Center, where
he was admitted to the trauma unit with severe head injuries. His condition
deteriorated, and he was pronounced dead the following day at 2:50 p.m.
The victim was returned to Mexico for burial by his family.
The federal OSHA investigation of the incident found that the owner had
used a single straight cut (no notch or backcut) to fell the first 11
trees. He did use a notch and backcut to cut the final tree that struck
the victim. However, he made the backcut in line with the notch cut, cutting
through the hingewood that connects the stump and the tree trunk long
enough to control the tree’s fall to the ground (see Figure
1). Another potential factor was the use of the front-end loader to
push the tree in the direction of the fall. During a typical cut, the
owner’s wife would push the tree with the front-end loader as he
made the cut. In this case, the operator was not available, so he set
the loader himself. Without the active push from the loader, the tree
may not have received enough force to push it in the desired direction.
1. Illustration showing a proper backcut and hingewood.
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Recommendation #1: Employees should use proper tree removal and communication
methods as outlined in the ANSI Standard Z133.1-2000.
Discussion: In this case, the tree was
improperly cut, causing it to unexpectedly fall in the wrong direction.
To prevent these types of incidents, NJ FACE recommends that employers
follow the guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute
(ANSI) in ANSI Z133.1-2000, Pruning, Repairing, Maintaining, and Removing
Trees, and Cutting Brush- Safety Requirements. This standard requires
that employees not involved in removal operations stay clear of the work
area by at least two tree lengths, and that a warning is given and acknowledged
before making the final cut to the tree. The standard also outlines safety
practices for climbing, pruning, cabling, chipping, and bucking. A copy
of this standard can be purchased by contacting ANSI.
Recommendation #2: All employers and employees involved in tree work should
receive training in arborist methods and equipment use.
Discussion: The employer was largely self-taught
in tree-trimming and landscaping operations, having learned from observation,
asking questions, and trial-and-error. He then passed on his experience
to his employees. Tree trimming is a high-risk business, given the many
uncontrolled situations and complex equipment used in the field. To reduce
risks, NJ FACE recommends that all arborists receive training specific
to their field. This includes climbing, tree removal techniques, landscaping,
equipment operation, electrical hazards, and other related subjects. Employers
should contact one of the professional arborists associations (see Recommended
Resources) for more information.
Recommendation #3: Employers should conduct a job hazard analysis of all
work activities with the participation of the workers.
Discussion: To prevent incidents such as
this, NJ FACE recommends that employers conduct a job hazard analysis
of all work areas and job tasks with the employees. A job hazard analysis
should begin by reviewing the work activities that the employee is responsible
for and the equipment that is needed. Each task is further examined for
mechanical, electrical, chemical, or any other hazard the worker may encounter.
The results of the analysis can be used to design or modify written operating
procedures. Additional information on conducting a job hazard analysis
is included in the appendix.
It is extremely important that employers obtain accurate information
on health, safety, and applicable OSHA standards. NJ FACE recommends the
following sources of information which should help both employers and
Professional Arborist Organizations
National Arborist Association (NAA) - now Tree Care Industry Association (Updated 3/25/2013)
P.O. Box 1094, Amherst, NH 03031-1094
Telephone: (800) 733-2622
Web site: https://www.tciaf.org
(Link updated 3/25/2013)
International Society of Arboriculture / Society of Commercial
P.O. Box 3129, Champaign, IL 61826-3129
Phone (217) 355-3516
Web site: http://www.isa-arbor.com
Committee for the Advancement of Arboriculture, Monmouth County
Shade Tree Commission
P.O. Box 1255, Freehold, NJ 07728-1255
Telephone: (732) 431-7903
ACRT, Inc., Utility Forestry Specialist
P.O. Box 401, 2545 Bailey Road, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221-0401
Telephone: (800) 622-2562
Shigo and Trees Association
4 Denbow Road, Durham, NH 03824
Telephone: (603) 868-7459
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety
& Health Administration (OSHA)
Federal OSHA will provide information on safety and health standards on
request. OSHA has several offices in New Jersey that cover the following
Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties
Telephone: (732) 750-3270
Essex, Hudson, Morris, and Sussex counties
Telephone: (973) 263-1003
Bergen and Passaic counties
Telephone: (201) 288-1700
Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer,
Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem counties
Telephone: (856) 757-5181
Web site: https://www.osha.gov/
NJ Public Employees Occupational Safety
and Health (PEOSH) Program
The PEOSH act covers all NJ state, county, and municipal employees. Two
state departments administer the act; the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce
Development (NJDLWD), which investigates safety hazards, and the NJ Department
of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) which investigates health hazards.
PEOSH has information that may benefit private employers.
NJDLWD, Office of Public Employees Safety
Telephone: (609) 292-7036
Web site: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/lsse/employer/Public_Employees_OSH.html (Link updated 3/25/2013)
NJDHSS, Public Employees Occupational Safety & Health Program
Telephone: (609) 984-1863
Web site: http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/peoshweb
NJDLWD Occupational Safety and Health
On-Site Consultation Program
Located in the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, this
program provides free advice to private businesses on improving safety
and health in the workplace and complying with OSHA standards.
Telephone: (609) 984-0785 or (609) 292-0104
and_Health_Onsite_Consultation_Program.html (Link updated 4/1/2009)
New Jersey State Safety Council
The NJ State Safety Council provides a variety of courses on work-related
safety. There is a charge for the seminars.
Telephone: (908) 272-7712.
Web site: http://www.njsafety.org
Other useful internet sites for occupational safety and health information:
The CDC/NIOSH Web site
USDOL Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses.
http://www.nsc.org/Pages/Home.aspx - National Safety
Council. (Link updated 11/17/2009)
- NJDHSS FACE reports.
- CDC/NIOSH FACE Web site
- Job Hazard Analysis. US Department of Labor Publication #
OSHA-3071, 1998 (revised). USDOL, OSHA/OICA Publications, PO Box 37535,
Washington DC 20013-7535.
New Jersey FACE Program
Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE)
Investigation # 03-NJ-043
Staff members of the New Jersey Department
of Health and Senior Services, Occupational Health Service, perform FACE
investigations when there is a report of a targeted work-related fatal
injury. The goal of FACE is to prevent fatal work injuries by studying
the work environment, the worker, the task and tools the worker was using,
the energy exchange resulting in fatal injury, and the role of management
in controlling how these factors interact. FACE gathers information from
multiple sources that may include interviews of employers, workers, and
other investigators; examination of the fatality site and related equipment;
and review of OSHA, police, and medical examiner reports, employer safety
procedures, and training plans. The FACE program does not seek to determine
fault or place blame on companies or individual workers. Findings are
summarized in narrative investigation reports that include recommendations
for preventing similar events. All names and other identifiers are removed
from FACE reports and other data to protect the confidentiality of those
who participate in the program.
NIOSH-funded state-based FACE Programs include: Alaska, California, Iowa,
Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New
York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
This NJ FACE report was supported by Cooperative Agreement # 1 U60 OH0345-01
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents
are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent
the official views of the CDC.
To contact New
Jersey State FACE program personnel regarding State-based FACE reports,
please use information listed on the Contact Sheet on the NIOSH FACE web
site. Please contact In-house
FACE program personnel regarding In-house FACE reports and to gain
assistance when State-FACE program personnel cannot be reached.