OSHA: Training could have prevented the death of man killed in wood chipper

Justus Boozer

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – An Upstate New York tree service is facing more than $140,000 in fines after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says it failed to provide safety training and ensure safe operating procedures.

An investigation began after Justus Booze, 23, was killed after a wood chipper pulled him into the machine as he worked for Countryside Tree Service  at a job site in Guilderland in May. It was his first day on the job.

OSHA says his employer, Tony Watson, exposed Booze and other coworkers to the dangers of being caught in the machine’s rotating parts and failed to train them in the safe operation of wood chippers.

“A young man’s life ended tragically and needlessly,” said Robert Garvey, OSHA’s Albany area director. “Countryside Tree Service bears the responsibility to ensure that all phases of tree trimming, tree felling, and tree removal work is performed safely. Putting employees to work with potentially dangerous machines with no safety training is unacceptable. Tree service companies must train workers – climbers, trimmers, and ground crew – properly. These workers must also be instructed in safe work practices and use of equipment including chain saws, cutters and especially hand-fed wood chippers that cut and grind branches and logs into pulp.”

Countryside Tree Service is also cited with the following:

  • Exposing employees to laceration and amputation hazards while operating chain saws during tree removal at three separate locations. Employees did not wear leg protection while trimming branches.
  • Failing to train each employee to use personal protective equipment.
  • Exposing employees to eye hazards during tree removal including wood dust, flying wood pieces, and being struck by branches during tree trimming and feeding wood into a chipper.
  • Failing to ensure employees wear a protective helmet when working in areas where the potential exists for head injuries from falling objects.

The citations can be viewed here.

OSHA says wood chippers are the most dangerous machines used in the tree service industry. Since 2011, workers have suffered a six-fold increase in the number of amputations. From 1996 to 2005, 39 workers died in wood chipper incidents.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Albany office at 518-464-4338.

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