Since 2011, tree service industry workers have suffered a six-fold increase nationally in the number of amputations due to wood chippers. OSHA has received 19 severe injury reports since 2015 related to wood chippers with injuries including amputations and head trauma.
Recently, during his first day on the job, 23-year-old Countryside Tree Service employee Justus Booze was pulled into a wood chipper, killing him.
A subsequent OSHA investigation found the Albany, New York-based company failed to provide safety training or protect workers from the wood chipper’s rotating parts. The agency also determined the company’s owner, Tony Watson, did not ensure workers used safe operating procedures when feeding materials into the chipper, exposing them to deadly hazards.
"A young man's life ended tragically and needlessly," said Robert Garvey, OSHA's Albany area director in a statement. "Countryside Tree Service bears responsibility to ensure that all phases of tree trimming, tree felling and tree removal work is performed safely. Putting employees to work with potentially dangerous machines with no safety training is unacceptable. Tree service companies must train workers - climbers, trimmers and ground crew - properly. These workers must also be instructed in safe work practices and use of equipment including chain saws, cutters and especially hand-fed wood chippers that cut and grind branches and logs into pulp."
OSHA cited Countryside with a willful violation because of the lack of training as well as three serious violations which included:
- Exposing employees to laceration and amputation hazards while operating chain saws during tree removal at three separate locations. Employees did not wear leg protection while trimming branches.
- Failing to train each employee to use personal protective equipment.
- Exposing employees to eye hazards during tree removal including wood dust, flying wood pieces, and being struck by branches during tree trimming and feeding wood into a chipper.
- Failing to ensure employees wear a protective helmet when working in areas where the potential exists for head injuries from falling objects.
The proposed fines for these violations total $141,811. The citations can be viewed here.