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A Tree Trimmer Dies When He is Crushed by Palm Tree Fronds

California Case Report: 12CA006


A tree trimmer died while trimming the palm fronds from a 50-foot palm tree in the yard of a private residence. This was the fourth palm tree the victim climbed that day. The victim climbed the palm tree and got underneath the dead palm fronds and began to pull them off the tree. A few minutes later the victim called for help, stating he was stuck and was suffocating. The police and fire departments responded to the co-worker’s 911 call, but were unable to reach the victim, so additional support was requested. Thermal imaging was used to locate the victim in the tree, and an aerial ladder truck was used to reach the victim. The victim was not trained or certified by any arborist or tree association. The contributing factors identified in this investigation were improper work practices in the removal of dead palm fronds and the lack of correct equipment. The CA/FACE investigator determined that, in order to prevent future incidents, tree care companies and self-employed tree workers who trim or remove palm trees should ensure that:

  • Palm tree trimming or removal is performed or supervised by workers trained and certified by organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) or the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
  • Proper work procedures and equipment are used.In addition, homeowners who need palm trees trimmed or removed should:
  • Hire only tree workers who are trained or certified by organizations such as the TCIA or ISA. In addition, it is preferable that homeowners should only hire companies that have a current tree trimming contractor’s license (in states where this is applicable).Also, fire departments in locations with palm trees should:
  • Develop and implement rescue protocols for trapped palm tree trimmers.

A Tree Trimmer Dies When He is Crushed by Palm Tree Fronds [PDF 429 KB]