A Tree Feller Dies When Struck By a Tree Limb While Felling a Fire-Damaged Tree
California Case Report: 17CA004
Release Date: September 5, 2018
A 21-year-old male tree feller, working from a bucket truck as part of a small tree-felling crew, died when struck by a large tree limb he had just cut. The 80 to 90-foot, fire-damaged oak tree was located below a county road that ran along the steep bank of a creek ravine. The crew had been directed not to fell the tree into the ravine because of environmental and cultural concerns. The crew had been directed to take the tree down in small sections. However, after the supervisor left, the victim decided that they should attempt to bring most of the tree down in two large sections. The crew used a rigging line, pulled by a mini-excavator, to attempt to direct the cut sections to fall uphill towards the road. Neither section fell in the direction intended; the second section fell uphill against the bucket truck, fatally crushing the victim.
The California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program (CA/FACE) concluded that organizations involved in tree-felling operations should take the following steps to prevent similar incidents:
- Tree-felling contractors should ensure that each crew includes, and is led by, a person with substantial experience in tree felling.
- Tree-felling contractors should ensure that all supervisors are certified in tree-felling safety by an organization such as the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) or the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). In addition, government agencies, utilities,and other project customers should include bid language requiring that all supervisors be certified in tree-felling safety by one of these organizations.
- Tree-felling crews should always be able to readily communicate with their supervisor and medical emergency services. If cell phone reception is not reliable, the employer should issue the crew a satellite phone.