Insights Into Tree Care Accidents

Tree Care Industry Association studies tree care-related accidents in 2014, offers trends and analysis.

The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) reviewed 126 occupational tree care accidents reported by the media, OSHA and industry colleagues in 2014. Of these, 81 were fatal. The median age of the victim for all incidents was 42.

Mondays and Fridays the worst. Further analysis revealed trends seen in previous years. For instance, Monday is still statistically the most dangerous day of the week for tree care professionals, with Friday ranking second. "It is reasonable to assume that so-called 'critical error' behaviors—such as mind-not-on-task or eyes-not-on-task—are more prevalent on these days," says Peter Gerstenberger, TCIA's senior advisor for safety, standards and compliance.

No professional affiliation. A more influential factor, however, is association membership. A disproportionate number of these incidents were experienced by arborists working for companies who are not members of TCIA.

"Tree care companies with no professional affiliation, such as TCIA, may not have the resources or motives to incorporate safety training on the jobsite," explains Gerstenberger. "Furthermore, TCIA has found ignorance or lack of training to be a factor in many of these incidents."

Many fatal incidents are preventable. For example, in eight of the reported 12 electrocution incidents, plus an electric shock/burn incident, the victims were using aluminum ladders and/or conductive tools at the time of the incident. In eight of the 25 falls, the victims were clearly not secured. In palm trimming deaths, the climbers were secured to the trunk below the frond skirts, a technique that has been widely publicized for years as being fraught with risk.

"It seems clear to us that the practitioners most in need of improved knowledge and training are also the least inclined to seek out training opportunities," says Gerstenberger. "As such, it is our responsibility as an association and industry to facilitate safety training opportunities for tree care professionals who need it the most."

The Arborist Safety Training Institute (ASTI), launched by the Tree Care Industry Association Foundation (TCIAF), seeks to fulfill this responsibility by providing quality, local and affordable safety training to working arborists. ASTI will provide grants for safety training to minimize consequent deaths and injuries, and promote overall workforce safety that is critical for the tree care industry. Learn more about ASTI at