NIOSH logo and tagline

A Landscaper Dies from Asphyxia When Compressed by Palm Fronds

California Case Report: 16CA007
Release Date: October 12, 2017


A landscaper died while trimming a palm tree in the back yard of a homeowner. Neither the victim nor the landscaper who hired him were certified tree trimmers. The palm tree was approximately 60 feet high. The victim was about halfway up the tree when the skirt of dead palm fronds directly above him broke loose and slid down, compressing him against the tree trunk and suffocating him. The fire department performed a technical rescue, but when they reached the victim he was in cardiac arrest. The CA/FACE investigator determined that, in order to prevent future incidents, landscapers and self-employed tree trimmers who trim or remove palm trees should ensure that:

  • Palm tree trimming or removal is performed or supervised by workers trained andcertified by organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) or theInternational Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
  • Proper work procedures and equipment are used, such as using an aerial lift and cuttingfronds from above.

In addition, property owners who need palm trees trimmed or removed should:

  • Only hire tree trimmers who are certified by organizations such as TCIA or ISA. Inaddition, they should only hire companies that have a current tree trimmingcontractor’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 Landscaper Dies from Asphyxia When Compressed by Palm Fronds – California [PDF 752 KB]