Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

August 21, 2013

Utility suspends tree-trimming firm after employee dies

TRAVERSE CITY — Officials for Traverse City Light & Power have suspended the tree trimming company whose employee died after contacting a high voltage line until the city-owned utility verifies that all employees received proper training.

Tim Arends, TCL&P executive director, notified the Houston-based Trees Inc. by letter dated Aug. 16 that it was suspending the company 30 days for fault. Arends said the suspension will continue until TCL&P receives investigative reports regarding the Aug. 7 electrocution death of a worker who backed into a power line while trimming trees.

“Considering the death of one of their employees, I feel we have a duty now to verify that they are training their employees as called for in our contract,” Arends said. “This is not only for the safety of the contractors but ... we have a duty to our customers as well.

“We had some customers (who) witnessed the death and continue to be impacted by it,” he said.

Trees Inc. has a three-year, $440,000 contract with TCL&P to trim tree branches that are in danger of contacting overhead power lines. Zachery Eldon Adams, 23, of Sears in Oscola County, was trimming branches from a pine tree in a backyard off East Orchard Drive when he was fatally shocked by a 13,800-volt line. TCL&P officials said he was getting a piece of equipment from a coworker on the ground when the accident occurred.

Arends said Trees Inc. is conducting its own investigation, as is the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A MIOSHA representative said a report on the incident would be finished in the coming weeks.

Trees Inc. representatives at the company’s Grand Rapids office couldn’t be reached for comment.

The contract with Trees Inc. requires that its employees be “trained, competent, skilled and experienced” in tree trimming around high voltage lines. It also requires the company to provide all necessary safety equipment.

The contract does not specify the type of equipment or training the company must supply other than it meet professional standards.

Failure to properly train workers would constitute cause to terminate the contract with Trees Inc., Arends said. Arends said he won’t make that determination until he sees the investigation results and consults with the utility’s attorney.



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