Three tree trimming fatalities occurred within recent weeks, including two workers who were crushed or suffocated by palm fronds: Jose Angel Barajas, who died Nov. 26 while trimming a 40-foot palm tree in Cerritos, Calif., and Jorge Garcia, who died in Fallbrook, Calif., while trimming a palm tree Nov. 16. Another tree trimmer, Gabriel Gonzales-Ferrer, died while working with a wood chipper Nov. 7.
Rose Epperson, executive director of the Western Chapter of the International Society of Aboriculture, explained that homeowners are not always aware of the dangers workers face when trimming trees. “Trimming palm trees is especially dangerous,” she said. “It’s hard, difficult work and the weight and the mass of palm fronds is substantial. National standards dictate that it is simply not safe to climb a palm tree if the growth at its top is more three years old and most homeowners rarely trim that frequently.”
In response to tree trimming hazards, the United Voice for Healthier Communities (UVHC), along with the California Urban Forests Council and the Western Chapter of the International Society of Aboriculture, urged homeowners to check credentials, references, contractor licenses and liability insurance of the tree trimmers they hire. These groups also dissuade homeowners from attempting to trim trees themselves.
“Homeowners who don't understand the dangers involved in tree care are hiring unskilled workers who are dying to trim their trees,” said Andy Trotter, chairman of UVHC. “Property owners need to exercise extreme caution when arranging for tree care, especially care of palm trees.”
Trotter also stressed the importance of checking credentials, adding that homeowners “must make sure that anyone working on trees is skilled enough to do the job safely.”