Aerial Lift Collapse Kills Florida Tree Trimmer

October 17, 2014

A 39-year-old tree trimmer was killed when the mechanical arm supporting the bucket of an aerial lift suddenly collapsed, striking the cab of the truck and ejecting the worker onto the pavement. As a result of the fatality, the OSHA cited Advanced Tree Service in Newberry, Fla., for five safety violations. The employee was topping off a tree at a residence on 14th Avenue in Gainesville when the incident occurred on May 30, 2014.

"This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer followed proper safety procedures by performing the mandatory service and maintenance to the aerial lift, as required," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "The only difference between a safe and unsafe act is the level of importance an employer places on doing what is right."

OSHA issued one willful citation for the employer's failure to ensure the worker in the aerial lift had a body belt with a lanyard attached to the boom or the basket. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Four serious violations were cited for failure to take an aerial lift out of service that had a frayed cable that had not been rebuilt in 15 years and to mark lift controls properly. OSHA also cited the company for allowing workers to use chain saws without eye protection and for not ensuring that employees working in an area where tree limbs were cut wore head protection. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Proposed penalties total $41,000. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, fatal work injuries in Florida accounted for 234 of the 4,405 fatal work injuries reported nationally in 2013.

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