Following two fatalities, CSEA fighting for tree work standard

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After two of our CSEA brothers lost their lives and other members were injured while doing on-the-job tree care duties, we are fighting for greater federal protections for tree operations.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently met with public and private sector stakeholders, including labor and tree care industry representatives, to consider developing a standard to eliminate or reduce worker exposure to hazards when performing tree care operations. While the OSHA meeting marks the beginning of the regulatory process, it is still an important step in possibly developing a standard that better protects workers performing tree care operations.

While OSHA has a standard that regulates logging, it doesn’t specifically cover all tree work operations performed by public employees, contractors and others who are not clearing large groups of trees for industrial purposes.

The state Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) Bureau, which covers safety standards for New York’s public employees, used various OSHA and PESH logging, training, equipment and work practice standards to cite Orange County and the Town of Otsego following preventable deaths to CSEA members employed by these entities.

In Orange County, CSEA member and laborer Tonny Teskera died in April 2015 while working on a tree trimming crew on the county-owned golf course. Six months later, Town of Otsego laborer Adam Burgess also died while performing tree care operations.

While meeting the citation standards that were issued to Orange County and the Town of Otsego would improve worker safety, a specific tree care standard would further minimize deaths and injuries among workers doing tree care.

Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Josh Kemp, who investigated Burgess’ death, represented our union at the recent OSHA meeting.

During the meeting, Kemp urged OSHA to develop a standard based on the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Z133 standard that specifically addresses tree work, safety practices, training and equipment.

“If there was any standard in place, (Teskera and Burgess) would’ve had a fighting chance,” Kemp said.

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