Some small business owners may think a job hazard analysis (JHA) isn’t required on their jobsites because the work they perform is specialized and their workers just “know what to do.”
A Feb. 27 report on a fatal incident in Washington State reveals that sort of thinking can lead to tragedy.
Employees working onsite with no supervision
On Nov. 19, 2020, a 28-year-old tree trimmer was part of a four-person crew removing a 127-foot fir tree from a residential property.
The tree trimmer had been working for the commercial and residential tree service and landscaping company for five years on an as-needed basis. His training had taken place on the job and was conducted by the employer.
On the day of the incident, the employer wasn’t onsite to supervise.
They needed an alternative method for lowering tree sections
The crew planned to use a port-a-wrap device to lower tree sections and limbs, but they didn’t have a rope that was long enough.
To solve this problem, they attempted tying two ropes together but the knot wouldn’t fit in the port-a-wrap so they didn’t use it. Instead, they wrapped the rope around the tree twice for friction to lower the tree sections. A climber then worked from the tree rigging, cutting sections while the tree trimmer and another worker held the rope for lowering those sections to the ground.
330-pound tree section falls, causes worker to stumble
At one point, the climber cut off a 330-pound section from the tree. It fell about a foot before the rope became taut. The weight caused shock loading on the rope, which lifted the tree trimmer and the other worker off the ground.
Both workers struggled to control the section as its momentum pulled them toward an embankment. The tree trimmer lost his grip on the rope, stumbled and fell backwards down the embankment. He hit his head on a rock and died at the scene.
Accident prevention program, JHA would’ve prevent incident
Investigators with the Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program found that:
- due to the rigging design and weight of the section they were lowering, the ground workers were unable to control the section during its descent
- the employer didn’t develop a formal, written accident prevention program tailored to the needs of the particular workplace or operation and to the types of hazards involved, and
- there was no qualified person to supervise at the site.
The FACE program investigators said that a formal, written accident prevention program and the use of proper safety devices, safeguards and work practices would have prevented the incident.
They also recommended requiring a JHA with worker participation for each job to help prevent a similar incident. A JHA “would have identified the hazardous rigging and lowering practices and the potential
for being struck by the uncontrolled tree section.”
JHAs can be used by any employer, no matter how small or large
JHAs aren’t just for chemical engineers, construction workers and large manufacturing facilities. They can be used in any industry and by any company, no matter if it’s a small tree trimming company or a commercial giant like Walmart or Amazon.
Using a JHA, with employee participation, helps workers find and recognize hazards they may have missed. JHAs get workers to slow down and assess a job for any potential dangers before rushing in and potentially getting hurt or even killed.