Health and Safety Resource

​December 2017


Accident Report

Event: Fall
Industry: Landscaping Services
Worker: Tree trimmer

What happened?​

A tree trimmer fell 35 feet from a tree while attempting a timed tree-rescue exercise.

How did it happen?

The tree trimmer was preparing to attempt a timed tree-rescue training exercise for certification and he was getting anxious because he had to perform the exercise in front of his co-workers.

To qualify for certification, he had to climb a 40-foot tree to a mannequin suspended in a climbing harness. Then, he had to tie into a climbing rope, secure the mannequin, and rappel from the tree with the mannequin in four minutes or less.

He began climbing with a split tail (and additional piece of rope that connects the climber to the climbing rope) already tied onto his climbing rope. When he got to the mannequin, the tree trimmer threw his climbing rope around the trunk of the tree with the split tail end, but it was not the way he usually did it. With the minutes ticking away, he got frustrated as he rushed to tie into the tree with the split tail and wasn’t able to do it. He untied the friction knot that connected the split tail to the climbing rope and retied it while he was still secured to the tree with a safety lanyard and climbing spurs. Finally, he secured the mannequin and removed his safety lanyard.

He sat back into his climbing line and descended about five feet when the friction knot at the end of the slip tail came loose and he free-fell to the ground, landing on his right upper leg and lower back.

The company safety director, who was leading the training exercise, and the tree trimmer’s co-workers immediately called 911, retrieved a first aid kit, and stayed with him until medical personnel arrived.

The tree trimmer was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he was admitted and remained overnight; however, no one from the company reported the incident to Oregon OSHA until eight days later.

split tail setup

Why did it take so long to report the incident?

The safety director said the delay in reporting this accident was unintentional, caused by a series of mistakes:

  • There was confusion on the day of the accident and the accident report form was completed and submitted by the corporate office.
  • Normally, the safety director completed the form, but he had a commitment to finish the training certification for other employees. Also, it had been several years since the company had a reportable accident so Oregon OSHA’s reporting requirements were not on his mind.
  • Because the safety director didn’t complete the accident report form, he wasn’t reminded by the notice at the bottom of the form to report an overnight hospitalization to Oregon OSHA within 24 hours.

How did the tree trimmer think the accident happened?

The tree trimmer said he was confident in his climbing skills and believed he fell for the following reasons:

  • He has always been very anxious when required to take a test or demonstrate a skill.
  • His mother had recently passed away and he had been working through her estate dealings, which had been on his mind recently.
  • Pre-tying a friction knot at the end of the split tail was part of his normal climbing routine and should not have been an issue. However, because he was nervous, he threw his climbing rope around the tree trunk opposite the way he normally did, which confused him. So, he decided to untie the knot and retie it, rather than thinking through his mistake.
  • In re-tying the knot, he forgot to wrap the end of the split tail under and around the climbing rope before threading it back under the bottom two wraps of the knot, which eliminated the knot’s ability to create friction against the climbing rope.
  • He also forgot to tie a figure-eight knot at the end of the split tail to prevent the friction knot from failing. If the figure-eight knot had been tied, he would not have fallen.


437-001-0704(4): The employer did not report in-patient hospitalizations, loss of an eye, and either amputations or avulsions that resulted in bone loss, to Oregon OSHA within 24 hours after occurrence of the work related incident or employers knowledge of the event.