In December, 19-year-old Mason Scott Cox died in North Carolina after he was caught and pulled into a wood chipper. It was his first day on the job.
Grounds maintenance workers, including tree trimmers, have a fatality rate that is more than three times that of the average worker in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet there are no federal safety standards for tree trimming, pruning and removal. The International Society of Arboriculture promotes voluntary standards, but not all contractors use them. Even some industry insiders are alarmed.
“We think a patchwork of standards are being applied to us,” said Peter Gerstenberger, a senior advisor for safety compliance and standards for the Tree Care Industry Association, which represents about 2,300 companies. “We really need a separate standard that fits the dangers of our industry better.”