Blog Post #832 – Tree Removal Service Fined $50,000

Blog Post #832 – Tree Removal Service Fined $50,000

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Landgraff Forestry Ltd., a business that provides tree trimming and removal services, has pleaded guilty and has been fined $50,000 after a worker suffered critical injuries after being struck by a tree limb.

On July 19, 2014 Landgraff had been retained by the owner of a residence in Windsor to remove two dead trees. The company owner, David Landgraff, was operating a bucket truck cutting the tree limbs, while two workers were situated on the ground and waiting for a tree limb to be lowered.

Landgraff observed that both ground workers were clear and proceeded to cut the limb on the south tree. A rope was attached to the limb being cut, which was strung through a fulcrum point on a neighbouring tree and through a device called the Hobbs device to the worker on the ground in control of the other end of the rope. (The Hobbs device is used to assist in lowering cut limbs to the ground.)

The cut limb – approximately 12 feet long and weighing between 100 to 125 pounds – was swung across to the tree with the fulcrum point. The limb then struck that tree with sufficient force that it likely caused the rope knot to loosen; in addition, an earlier rain shower made the bark somewhat wet. The limb then slipped from the rope and fell about 30 feet, where it struck one of the workers on the ground. As a result, the worker suffered critical injuries, including fractures.

A Ministry of Labour inspector investigated the incident and determined that in the tree-cutting industry, the area around the work site into which tree limbs being cut may fall is known as the drop/fall, hazard or danger zone. The “Arborist Industry Safe Work Practices” manual describes this zone as being twice the length of the tree, in all directions. Workers in the drop/fall zone are exposed to the hazard of falling tree limbs. The Arborist Industry Safe Work Practices Manual recommends the arborist identify and mark the drop/fall zone, and ensure that workers do not enter into that zone while cutting is going on. Both the employer and the injured worker held certificates of qualification from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities as utility arborists.

Landgraff failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that workers did not enter into the drop/fall zone in which they may be exposed to the hazard of falling tree limbs. This is contrary to section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The defendant pleaded guilty and was fined $50,000 by Justice of the Peace Elizabeth M. Neilson in Windsor court on December 21, 2015.

In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

The law(s) violated,

Langstaff Forestry Ltd., was found guilty of a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), section 25, subsection 2 (h) which states,

“An employer shall,

Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

My opinion,

Very simple if you ask me. A complete hazard assessment MUST be completed prior to any work is to be done. In this case, the wet tree was a hazard and the drop/fall hazard area was not laid out for the workers who, then, stood in the danger area and one worker was critically injured.

By the way, a critical injury is defined under Ontario regulation 834 which states,

“critically injured” means an injury of a serious nature that,

(a) places life in jeopardy,
(b) produces unconsciousness,
(c) results in substantial loss of blood,
(d) involves the fracture of a leg or arm but not a finger or toe,
(e) involves the amputation of a leg, arm, hand or foot but not a finger or toe,
(f) consists of burns to a major portion of the body, or
(g) causes the loss of sight in an eye.

Any death or critical injury MUST be reported to the Ministry of Labour (MOL).

Every worker deserves to work in a safe workplace. If you are an employer, please read the OHSA and/or the appropriate sector regulations that pertain to your workplace. Your workers will be happy you did. As well, HRS Group Inc. stands ready to aid any and all companies with any safety issues and all of your company’s training needs. Call Deborah at 1-877-907-7744 for more details.

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

Dan
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