Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

January 4, 2014

MIOSHA proposes fine for tree trimmer's death

TRAVERSE CITY — The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a $12,600 fine on the company that employed a tree trimmer who died while working in Traverse City.

Zachery Eldon Adams, 23, of Sears, died in August when he was fatally shocked after a brush with a 13,800-volt line while he was subcontracted to trim a pine tree for Traverse City Light and Power. Adams was employed by Trees Inc., a vegetation management company based in Houston, Texas.

A four-month MIOSHA investigation found the company committed two serious violations, said Adrian Rocskay, MIOSHA’s director of the general industry safety and health division.

“These serious violations classified as high-severity, which means death or injuries involving permanent disability did occur,” Rocskay said. “They were classified with greater probability, which means that the likelihood that an injury can occur was really high.”

The probe found Trees Inc. did not follow an OSHA rule that requires all employees be briefed before a job. The company also failed to ensure that its employees do not get too close to an energized line.

“It’s the employer’s obligation,” Rocskay said.

A coworker on the ground passed Adams a piece of equipment in a backyard off of East Orchard Drive when he backed into the line, received a shock, and went into cardiac arrest.

“Employees need to always stay vigilant about how close they are to the power line. It’s easy to become complacent because they’ve never had an accident before or to get too wrapped up in the work,” Rocskay said. “Also, when you’re trimming tree branches, sometimes the branches can move unexpectedly and bring an employee closer to the power lines.”

Trees Inc. could not be reached for comment, but has two weeks to appeal the citation. The company provides utility services to 21 states, according to its website.

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