Employers in the amenity tree and gardening services industry have been urged by WorkSafe Victoria to follow updated guidance and a new safety checklist to reduce risks to their workers after a number of deaths and serious incidents.
WorkSafe recently updated its Working safely with trees guidance note in consultation with the Victorian tree industry, arborist groups and Energy Safe Victoria, along with information from SafeWork NSW and Safe Work Australia.
The guidance includes the most up to date information to help employers identify and control the risks of falling objects, such as branches while tree trimming, pruning or tree removal.
It also includes guidance about working near overhead powerlines, working at height, working with chainsaws and woodchippers.
The update comes after a coronial finding into the death of a worker who was killed by a falling tree branch while cutting down a tree at Lal Lal, near Ballarat in 2017.
The coroner noted that recent research by the Coroners Prevention Unit found that 31 people had died in Victoria from tree felling or related activity between January 2012 and September 2018 and that 13 of these fatalities occurred at work.
In July last year, a man, 59, died while helping to fell trees on a property in Buxton.
WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Julie Nielsen said the alarming number of deaths and serious injuries that have occurred highlights the dangers of working with trees.
“The deaths of these workers show the need for employers in this industry to do more to ensure the safety of their workers,” Nielsen said.
“There is no excuse for any worker to lose their life due to unsafe work practices and the amenity tree industry is no exception.”
WorkSafe’s guidance highlights the importance of planning and preparation when working with trees and the need to inspect each tree individually to determine the safest method for the required work.
Employers are encouraged to download the new safety checklist that outlines some of the hazards and risks of working with trees, to inspect their workplace and fix any issues that are identified.