Summer 2014      |      Stephen P. Sands, Registrar      |      Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor


email alerts button

Worker Deaths Show Perils of Unlicensed Palm Tree Trimming


The deaths of three tree trimmers who were suffocated while trimming palms in Southern California between 2010 and 2012 shows the risks of allowing unlicensed workers to undertake potentially life-threatening projects.

The California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (CA FACE) program, which tracks and investigates cases of fatal injuries at work, has publicized the incidents to warn employers and consumers about the need to hire tree trimmers and companies that hold a C-61/-49 Tree Service license from CSLB and are certified by recognized arborist organizations.

In all three cases, the tree trimmers suffocated under the weight of collapsing palm fronds. The workers climbed the tree and trimmed the fronds from the bottom up, placing themselves directly beneath the fronds. Neither the workers or the supervisors were licensed tree workers, nor did they follow proper safety procedures or use the correct equipment. The workers died when they were pinned by thick layers of dead fronds.

Thousands of tree workers who trim palm trees are at risk. There are more than 45,000 palm trees in California, and many are tall, mature trees with many years of frond buildup.

Big palms present a unique danger. When a tree trimmer cuts or pulls on dead fronds, adjacent fronds or an entire ring of fronds may collapse and suffocate the worker.

To reduce the danger, proper work procedures and correct equipment should be used when trimming palms. Fronds should be removed by workers using an aerial device and wearing fall protection. Alternatively, workers should use climbing procedures that place them above the fronds.

Only workers certified by organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) or the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) should perform or supervise palm tree trimming.

The FACE program is part of the state Department of Public Health's Occupational Health Branch.

Read the FACE palm tree investigations.

left arrow right arrow

License Revocations     |      Past Issues