The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) conducted an analysis of 37 civilian tree care-related accidents reported by the media in 2014. TCIA is a trade association that advances the tree care industry and discourages homeowners from taking unnecessary risks caring for their trees.
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 hom eowners are likely to encounter while attempting tree work.
The findings were grim: Twenty-three of the accidents (60 percent) were fatal. “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 median age of the victim was 62, and the oldest victim was 76. The youngest reported victim was a 3-year-old toddler who tragically walked into the path of a tree his father was felling and was struck and killed. Three of the 37 victims, including the 3-year-old, were uninvolved bystanders. Most homeowners were struck by a tree while attempting to fell it, or were hit by limbs, wires, or chain saws. Others fell or were electrocuted. Chart A provides more details on the accidents.
Occasionally, these incident are high-profile; Greg Norman, the pro golfer, is the lone “struck by chain saw” statistic. He claimed to be lucky to still have his left hand after a chain saw accident. The famed Australian, who won two majors and 20 U.S. PGA Tour titles, was trimming a sea grape tree at his home near Jupiter Island, Florida, when the accident occurred.
Norman was part of another dominant group in these statistics: the victims who were working alone at the time of the accident. In two-thirds of all cases where it could be determined, the victims undertook hazardous tree work with nobody to spot them, nobody to assist them, and nobody to advise them when it might have been prudent to stop and seek out an expert.