In Gastonia, North Carolina last December, 19 year old Mason Scott Cox was pulled into a wood chipper and killed. Mason had no prior experience in the tree care business, and on his first day at work he mistakenly tried to kick a limb that was stuck into the machine. It is speculated that his clothing caught onto either the limb or the chipper’s belt wheels and dragged him in. His coworkers realized too late what was happening, and hit the power switch only after he’d been pulled waist deep in, prompting family members to question whether he was being adequately supervised.
According to the Tree Care Industry Association, which represents about 2,300 tree care companies, there have been about 580 work related deaths between 2009 and 2015. This is due in part to the tree trimming industry fighting off the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) safety standards by claiming the agency was overreaching in some aspects and not addressing relevant hazards in others. This stems from the origin that the standards were designed for logging and not necessarily for tree care. OSHA was asked to consider making a safety standard specifically for tree care in 2008, but the process was set aside due to lack of resources. Nearly a decade later, OSHA announced last fall that it would be gathering information for the possible development of specific rules for the industry. There is no word on when the process will start, and a time line involving the information gathering hasn’t been given.