Salem, OR — Oregon OSHA has fined a Wilsonville company $14,375 for violating job safety standards designed to protect workers from the potential hazards of tree work, including climbing, cutting, and removal.
The division cited Haulout Landscape Inc. following an investigation into an April 1 accident that resulted in the death of a worker in Klamath Falls. The worker had been hired to work on this particular job.
The deadly accident underscores the need to anticipate risks, and to follow proven safety procedures and practices as part of any work operation, including one involving a short-term jobsite with a relatively immediate need to hire workers.
Oregon OSHA's investigation centered on events surrounding Haulout Landscape's hiring of two workers who responded to the company's advertisement on Craigslist. The workers were tasked with cutting down and removing an approximately 60-foot-tall oak tree at a job site in Klamath Falls.
At one point during the project, one of the workers – positioned under a large, partially attached tree branch – was using a gas-powered chainsaw to cut branches on the ground for firewood, according to Oregon OSHA's investigation. At the same time, the other employee worked at the opposite end of the large branch. That employee was using a gas-powered chainsaw to cut the large branch into pieces. As he did this, the tree branch toppled and struck the other worker – who was underneath it – in the head, trapping and killing him.
Before the workers arrived on site, the project supervisor had tried cutting a block out of the tree. He became nervous about trying to remove the tree himself, according to Oregon OSHA's investigation, and decided to advertise for help.
“Workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace," said Oregon OSHA Interim Administrator Julie Love. “And whether an employer assigns a task to a long-time employee or to a temporary worker, the employer is responsible for ensuring protections are in place. That includes anticipating risks, and providing proper safety training and equipment. To do otherwise is to needlessly put workers in harm's way."
Altogether, Oregon OSHA cited Haulout Landscape for three serious job safety violations:
- Did not train employees on equipment such as chainsaws, and tree removal rigging or climbing equipment. The company also did not ensure employees followed safe work practices for climbing, cutting, or removing large trees. Penalty: $3,125.
- Did not ensure an employee was tied in with any approved climbing rope or safety saddle. The employee was exposed to a potential fall of about 15 feet from a tree limb. Penalty: $5,625.
- Did not ensure that employees using gas-powered chainsaws to cut down and remove a tree were provided with – and used – personal protective equipment such as hearing, eye, head, leg, or fall protection. Penalty: $5,625.
In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers free resources – involving no fault, no citations, and no penalties – to help improve workplace safety and health:
Consultation services – Provides free and confidential help with safety and health programs, including how to control and eliminate hazards, and hands-on training
Technical staff – Helps employers understand requirements and how to apply them to their worksites
The division also offers free educational resources, including a
safety guide for landscaping contractors, and tree and shrub services that addresses safe procedures and practices for climbing, cutting, and removing trees.