BOSTON – In Connecticut, a tree branch contacted a live high-voltage power line as a worker in an aerial lift cut it, electrocuting him. In Massachusetts, a falling tree branch struck and killed a worker cutting down oak trees, while a falling tree limb struck an elevated bucket lift, ejecting the worker whose fall was fatal. In nearby Rhode Island, a log conveyor rolled over a worker performing repairs, crushing and killing him.
These are among the 31 worker deaths in the tree trimming and removal, landscaping and site preparation industries since 2016 that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration New England region has investigated. To reduce the risks workers in these industries face, OSHA’s Boston regional office has established a Regional Emphasis Program that combines enforcement and outreach with employers.
“The number of fatalities, injuries and uncontrolled hazards in the tree and landscaping industries in New England is alarming and unacceptable. These incidents are preventable with proper training and effective safety procedures,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Jeffrey Erskine in Boston. “We are taking this action to raise awareness and improve worker safety in these industries. The emphasis program will focus on the industry’s major hazards – falls, struck-by objects, electrocution, and vehicular and traffic hazards.”
OSHA inspections have identified occurrences such as workers falling from trees and aerial lifts, being struck by falling trees and tree limbs, electrocution or shock from contact with live electrical wires, suffering lacerations caused by saws and other equipment, sustaining injuries from vehicle collisions and being struck by or caught between mechanical equipment.
The program’s initial phase includes outreach to employers, workers and stakeholder groups by each OSHA area office in New England prior to commencing enforcement activities in November 2021. This outreach can include presentations, informational mailings, articles in trade newsletters and other activities. OSHA will then conduct programmed inspections of tree, landscape and site preparation worksites. OSHA inspectors will also be able to open inspections on the spot if they observe hazardous conditions while traveling past worksites in the course of their duties.
OSHA encourages industry employers to take steps to identify, reduce and eliminate hazards related to tree trimming and site preparation and implement safety strategies during the REP’s initial phase.
The agency urges employers to use its free On-Site Consultation Program for advice on complying with OSHA standards.
Regional Emphasis Programs are enforcement strategies, designed and implemented at the regional and/or area office levels, to address hazards or industries that pose a particular risk to workers in the offices’ jurisdictions. This REP is in effect until Aug. 4, 2026.