Tree care workers need better training to handle dangers on the job, Rutgers study finds

March 16, 2018

As climate change increases the risk to trees from severe storms, insects, diseases, drought and fire, a Rutgers University study highlights the need for improved safety in tree-care operations.

According to findings published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, workers employed by tree care experts and licensed arborists were more likely to receive health and safety training and to use personal protective equipment than those employed by companies that are not part of the professional arboriculture network. The research also shows that Spanish-speaking day laborers often had little training or use of personal protective equipment.

Tree care workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in America, regularly encountering heights, slippery conditions, falling limbs, sharp equipment and electrical wires. The incidence of injuries increases after storms when unqualified "storm-chasers" with chainsaws and landscaping companies offer their services to uninformed homeowners. Some municipalities also struggle to handle tree damage with inadequately trained labor and old equipment. Annually, tree care injuries account for about 80 worker deaths and at least 23,000 chainsaw injuries treated in emergency departments. Many of those injuries result from inadequate training and equipment.

"There is a popular misconception that tree removal is low-skill work, but nothing could be further from the truth," said Michele Ochsner, formerly with Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. "Handling storm-downed trees without injury to people or property involves an array of technical skills and knowledge of how different species of trees respond in different seasons and weather conditions."

Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Ochsner, along with Elizabeth Marshall, an environmental and occupational epidemiologist at Rutgers School of Public Health, and Daniel Lefkowitz at the New Jersey Department of Health, have been analyzing surveillance data after storms to assess injury risks related to tree work. They also conducted interviews with private and municipal tree care experts to understand the Sandy experience and suggest ways to improve safety.

Storms and the ensuing long hours exacerbate the job's significant risks. "Tree care crews handle thousands of downed trees in the wake of a hurricane or even the recent snow storm. It takes knowledge, proper equipment and coordination to do that safely," Marshall said.

Although there is no current Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard for tree trimming, employers are required to comply with all general industry standards set by a network of national, regional and state associations, said Marshall. She noted that New Jersey recently passed a comprehensive licensing law to assist consumers in hiring a tree care company that upholds the state's standards.

"Our interviews with tree care workers revealed a number of recommendations to plan ahead for major storms," said Marshall. "For example, companies and municipalities should ensure equipment is well maintained, employees are properly trained in their native language and provided with personal protective equipment. Consumers should work with a licensed tree care professional to identify damaged or improperly planted trees and remove dead trees and limbs before the next big storm. Then, they will be ready when bad weather arrives and trees come down."
-end-


Rutgers University

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.