The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) conducted an analysis of 42 civilian tree care-related accidents reported by the media in 2017.
While these numbers are not representative of all – or even most – tree care accidents involving non-professionals, they provide insight into the types of hazards homeowners are likely to encounter while attempting tree work.
Unfortunately, 24 of the accidents (57 percent) were fatal. Sixteen resulted in serious injury, and there were two rescues performed by fire departments for homeowners stranded in a tree. In 34 cases the victim’s own actions were the cause of the incident. Three were likely injured by the actions of another while they were helping, and two were injured by falling limbs while performing storm cleanup. Three victims were innocent bystanders, and one of those three hired a company without the proper experience, training or insurance to do the work. “
Homeowners may not realize how dangerous tree work can be, and how much they’re risking by taking the ‘do-it-yourself’ approach or hiring unqualified people to do the work,” says Peter Gerstenberger, senior advisor for safety, standards and compliance for TCIA. “Lack of training, equipment, or situational awareness undoubtedly contributed to these incidents, which could have been avoided by hiring a professional tree care company.”
The average age of the victim was 52. All victims were male.
Seventeen homeowners were struck by a tree while attempting to fell it due to the tree going in an unintended direction or the victim not moving out of the way in time. Six were struck by a branch or tree section falling from above them. Three were caused by the chain saw kicking back and causing severe lacerations. Two were pinned by a tree or limb, requiring assistance to be freed. Nine incidents were caused by falls, and six of those falls involved ladders. Four incidents involved electric shock or burns due to contact with power lines. One suffered a medical emergency that left him unconscious and stuck in a tree.
One unfortunate incident involved children. A felled tree struck and killed a two-year-old boy and seriously injured his five-year-old brother when their father cut it down. According to the initial investigation, the boys were watching their father cut down the tree from a distance of about 50 feet when the tree suddenly fell toward them. They were flown to a hospital where the two-year-old was later pronounced dead and the older boy was hospitalized in serious condition. This is certainly a disturbing incident, but the purpose of sharing is to convey that there are many unforeseen hazards when untrained people approach tree work, including the safety of those who are nearby but uninvolved in the work.
Unfortunately, working alone was a recurrent theme. “When the work is hazardous, there should always be another set of eyes and ears, or in the worst case scenario, someone should be ready to summon help,” says Gerstenberger. “However, because trees react in unexpected ways, tree work is best left to the experts to minimize damage to people and property.”
Don’t risk it. Find a qualified tree care professional in your area.