|New Jersey Case Report: 94NJ066
Report Date: November 30, 1994
On May 6, 1994, a 22 year-old male tree trimmer died when he contacted
a 220 volt power line while trimming a tree. NJDOH FACE investigators
concluded that, in order to prevent similar incidents in the future, the
following safety guidelines should be followed:
- Hazard assessments should be conducted for each tree-trimming job;
- A minimum clearance of ten feet must be maintained between the worker,
equipment, and energized power lines to prevent inadvertent contact.
- Trees should not be climbed when wet.
- Employers should develop a written employee training program in safe
tree trimming and hazard recognition. Their standard operating procedures
should be in writing.
On May 6, 1994, NJDOH FACE personnel learned about this work-related
fatality from the county medical examiner's investigator. A site visit
was conducted on May 19, 1994. Information for this report was derived
from the OSHA file, medical examiner's report, police report and interviews
of the deceased worker's employer and co-worker.
The victim's employer was a tree trimming company that had been in business
for approximately 7 years and employed five people at the time of the
incident. The employer was a member of the National Arborist Association.
The victim, a 22 year-old tree trimmer, was employed for three years by
the company. He was a tree climber and crew supervisor. The company required
a worker to have three years of employment with the company to climb trees.
Workers with less experience functioned as groundmen.
Back to Top
The incident site was the back yard of a house in a large city. The company
contracted with the home owner to remove a dead 45-foot tree at the edge
of the property line. Less than two weeks prior to the incident, a company
representative visited the site in order to estimate the cost of the job.
He gave the homeowner an estimate of the cost without explaining how the
tree would be taken down.
On the day of the incident, work started at 8 a.m.. The victim and his
co-worker, a groundman with four years experience and 1 1/2 years with
the company, received their written assignments for the day. Apparently,
the victim received verbal directions also. They went to the house where
they were to remove the dead 45-foot tree. The two men inspected the tree
and noted power lines running between the branches. The co-worker stated
that the victim was wearing a climbing saddle, boots, spikes, hard hat
with ear muffs for hearing protection, cotton gloves, and rain gear because
it was drizzling rain. He climbed the tree with a chain saw (weight of
saw unknown) and used a new rope to "crotch" (tie himself into)
the tree. The groundman prepared the saws and his equipment for chipping
branches. According to the co-worker, the climber planned to trim the
branches on the side of the tree near the wires with the chain saw and,
after the wires were free, to cut down the tree at the trunk. The lines
were about three feet from the three-foot diameter tree trunk.
The victim cut two tree branches and the groundman took them to the chipper.
As he worked, around 9:30 a.m., the groundman became aware that the chain
saw was silent. He heard a buzzing sound coming from the power line and
reports seeing the victim holding the power line with two hands, his back
to the tree. The victim had contacted a single phase secondary power line
that carried 220 volts of electricity.
The worker yelled for help and asked someone to call 911. A neighbor
heard him and called for assistance. The worker also ran to his truck
and phoned his employer to report the incident. Rescuers arrived quickly
but the groundman (who was experienced with another tree trimming company)
had already tied a rope around his waist and climbed the tree. He wore
no climbing harness and no spikes. He jumped from a fence to the first
branch. The victim, at this time, was free from the power line. The co-worker
unhooked the victim's chain saw, threw it down to the ground, and planned
to use the rope to lower both of them to the ground. Police who arrived
on the scene ordered the worker to come down from the tree.
After the power line was deenergized by the utility company, the victim
was removed from the tree by rescuers who used the fire department ladder
truck. He was taken to the local emergency room where he was pronounced
Cause of Death
The medical examiner determined that death was caused by electrocution.
The victim had burns on his right arm, left fingers, ankle and foot.
Back to Top
Recommendation #1: Hazard assessments should be conducted for each tree-trimming
Discussion: Assessment of the tree to be trimmed
and potential hazards for the trimmers should be conducted for each job. The assessment should be a two step
complementary process. The person who estimates the job should also look for the hazards of cutting
and climbing the tree, including the potential for contact with energized power lines.
Those potential hazards can be incorporated in planning for the job and
work assignments. The second step in the process involves the tree trimming crew at the site.
They should conduct an independent assessment of potential hazards and postpone any job
Discussion: The victim contacted the energized power
lines while he was working too closely to the energy source. ANSI Standard
Z133.1-1988 requires a minimum clearance of ten feet for persons or equipment
from energized power lines, unless that person is a qualified line clearance
tree trimmer. On request, the local utility company will provide free line
clearance tree trimmers to trim branches near power lines. After these branches
have been removed, tree trimming companies can safely trim the tree or remove
the remaining section of a tree.
Recommendation #2: A minimum clearance of ten feet must be maintained
between the worker, equipment, and energized power lines to prevent inadvertent
Recommendation # 3: Trees should not be climbed when wet.
Discussion: Whether it contributed to this fatal
injury is unknown, but wet tree bark may be slippery even in drizzling
rain and could cause a climber to loose his balance. Wet branches may
also contribute to electrical conduction.
Recommendation # 4: Employers should develop a written employee training
program in safe tree trimming and hazard recognition. Company standard
operating procedures should be in writing.
Discussion: It is recommended that a written,
on-going training program be developed for safe tree trimming practices.
Although employees were encouraged to attend seminars, trade events and
meetings and use tapes from training organizations, an organized training
program fosters consistency and documents the background and education
of employees. Training should include the recognition and avoidance of
electrical hazards as required by the ANSI Standard. The company's operating
procedures should also be standardized and put in writing.
Back to Top
Sources of information for small tree trimming companies include:
The Committee for the Advancement of Arboriculture. This organization
offers courses on basic and advanced tree climbing and other pertinent
courses in tree safety and arboriculture. For information, contact David
Shaw, Monmouth County Shade Tree Commission, P.O. Box 1255, Freehold,
NJ 07728-1255. The telephone number is (908) 431-7903.
Local utility companies offer seminars for tree trimmers in avoiding
National Arborists' Association offers videos on safety and a
manual titled "Tailgate Safety for Tree Care Professionals."
The address of the Association is The Meeting Place Mall, Route 101/P.O.
Box 1094, Amherst, NH 03031-1094. The telephone number is (603) 673-3311.
NJ Department of Labor Consultative Service will provide free
advice for business owners on methods of improving health and safety in
the workplace and complying with OSHA standards. The telephone number
is (609) 292-3922.
American National Standards Institute, Inc., ANSI Z133.1-1988 American
National Standard for Tree Care Operations-Pruning, Trimming, Repairing,
Maintaining, and Removing Trees, and Cutting Brush-Safety Requirements.
National Safety Council Data Sheet I-244-Rev. 84
NIOSH . NIOSH Alert:request for assistance in preventing electrocutions
and falls during tree trimming. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No.92-106.
The Committee for the Advancement of Arboriculture: Brochure of courses
and seminars offered.
Back to Top
It is essential that employers obtain accurate information on health,
safety, and applicable OSHA standards. NJ FACE recommends the following
sources of information which can help both employers and employees:
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: http://www.osha.gov
U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety
& Health Administration (MSHA)
Federal MSHA regulates safety and health in metal and non-metal mines.
The MSHA web site has a great deal of useful safety and health information
including detailed reports on fatality investigations. New Jersey mines
are under the jurisdiction of the Wyomissing, PA field office.
Telephone: (610) 372-2761
Web site: http://www.msha.gov
New Jersey 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) 633-3896
Web site: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/lsse/employer/Public_Employees_OSH.html
(Link updated 3/26/2013)
NJDHSS, Public Employees Occupational Safety & Health Program
Telephone: (609) 984-1863
Web site: http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/peoshweb
New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce
Development, Occupational Safety and Health On-Site Consultation Program
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
and_Health_Onsite_Consultation_Program.html (Link updated 3/26/2009)
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
Back to Top
New Jersey FACE Program
Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE)
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 the 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 reviewing OSHA, police, and medical examiner reports, employer safety
procedures, and training plans. The FACE program does not determine fault
or place blame on employers 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 is 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.