The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) conducted an analysis of 30 civilian tree care-related accidents reported by the media in 2016.
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, 19 of the accidents (63 percent) were fatal. Nine resulted in serious injury, one resulted in only minor injury and there was one aerial rescue of a homeowner stranded in a tree. In 22 cases the victim’s own actions were the cause of the incident. Six were likely injured by the actions of another while they were helping. Two victims were innocent bystanders. “Homeowners may not realize how dangerous tree work can be, and how much they’re risking by taking the ‘do-it-yourself’ approach,” 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 55. Twenty-nine out of 30 were men, and the only female victim was driving her car when neighbors dropped a tree on her in the roadway.
Sixteen 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. Seven incidents were caused by falls, and five of those falls involved ladders.
One unfortunate incident hit the hazard trifecta. A cut branch struck a homeowner on a ladder, causing him to fall off and into the roadway below where he was run over by a semi. 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 those one may not normally associate with tree 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.