July 22, 2021

OSHA Updates Tree Care Enforcement Guidance, Considers Potential Rulemaking

A memorandum issued on June 24 by OSHA updates its enforcement guidance for compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) when inspecting tree care and removal operations. The updated guidance highlights some of the hazards faced by workers engaged in tree care and removal—including falls, being struck by cars or branches, lacerations, and contact with electric power lines—and informs CSHOs on OSHA standards that address those hazards.

The memorandum cancels OSHA’s previous tree care directive, which was issued in August 2008. The new memorandum contains subparts that cover protection from falls and falling objects, such as tools and branches; climbing trees and performing work while elevated, including while using ladders or aerial lifts; using personal protective equipment; electrical safety; storing, handling, transporting, and using flammable liquids; occupational noise exposures; materials handling and storage; hand-held power tools; machinery; first aid provision; fire extinguishers; and traffic safety.

An OSHA press release issued on July 13 states that the agency is considering a proposed tree care standard, which would protect workers who prune, repair, maintain, or remove trees, and address the safe use of tools and equipment in the tree care industry. In spring 2020—as directed by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)—OSHA convened a Small Business Advocacy Review panel, to listen to the concerns expressed by representatives of small businesses and government entities that would potentially be affected by a standard regulating tree care operations.

The completion of the SBREFA panel was a step toward the development of the standard. According to a timetable published in the Department of Labor’s spring 2021 regulatory agenda, OSHA intends to take the next step—issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking—in 2022. More information on the potential tree care operation standard can be found in the fact sheet (PDF) provided for the SBREFA hearing.