If you have ever watched someone climb up a telephone pole to repair it, then you have a slight idea of what workers in tree felling do every day. This occupation is highly dangerous not only because of the heights they work from, but the numerous other variables that can go wrong while cutting trees. Tree felling encompasses every occupation where trees require care, maintenance or removal like in the logging industry or local arborists.
In Mississippi, logging is big business. The state’s geographical makeup consists of being 65% timber and there are approximately 1,000 professional logging companies that operate under what is known as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standards. Add to that the numerous tree cutting services someone might call when a tree has died on his or her property and there are a lot of workers’ compensation injuries waiting to happen.
What are the most common injuries in logging?
Whether a tree just needs a few high branches trimmed off to keep it healthy, it has died and is creating a hazard on your property, or they’re being cut down to meet the needs of the economy, the equipment and procedures are largely the same. That means plenty of skill and safety are required, but accidents still happen. That is why employers carry workers’ compensation insurance.
Some of the injuries seen most frequently in tree cutting include:
- Electrocution. More so in residential tree cutting, the risk of being electrocuted is very real. Power companies employ or contract out work to tree trimming companies to keep power lines free of obstruction from growing tree branches. In places like California, some of the wildfires that sparked last year were due to a perfect storm between high winds causing dried branches and power lines to come into contact. This happened because the power company failed to maintain those areas, which became overgrown. When tree trimmers have to handle these delicate situations, accidental touching of wires can cause:
- Heart attack
- Burn injuries
- Muscle, nerve, and tissue destruction
- Breathing difficulties
- Impact Injuries. When climbing trees, workers are supposed to be properly harnessed and secured but even when they are, they can become seriously injured. Whether the tree cutter falls because a rope breaks, is hit by a branch or log that’s lost control, or is suddenly pinned between a tree and a piece of equipment, force against the body in any of these scenarios can result in:
- Lacerations and amputations. When working with heavy duty, sharp power tools designed to cut through logs is part of the job, you risk catastrophic injuries if there is a mishap. Even a slight graze against a still blade can cause a deep cut. If someone loses their grip on a chainsaw, or a blade comes loose, the unpredictable direction it takes can cause devastating injuries, including cutting through human limbs. If a heavy branch happens to fall onto a worker’s arm or leg causing a crushing injury, if enough damage is done, it’s even possible the limb will require surgical amputation to save the employee’s life.
- Injuries to eyes. Safety goggles are a standard piece of equipment every tree trimmer wears but they’re not always worn every minute on a job. Sometimes workers need to adjust or clean their goggles to see better, or they can be knocked off by a wayward branch or fall. Anytime goggles are removed the potential exists for wood chips or dust to enter the eye causing corneal scratches. If a branch swings into the workers’ face, it can also cause damage to the eye area even while wearing protective goggles.
- Animals and insects. While sometimes these situations can be dealt with before working with the tree itself, if you encounter a wild animal who has made the tree its home or a nest of angry wasps, you’re likely to need medical care. Animal bites can come with infection, or worse, rabies. Insect stings or bites can cause dangerous reactions for those who have allergies to their poison.
- Poisoning. Depending upon where the tree is located, it may be covered with Poisonous plants like poison ivy, oak, or sumac. These toxic plants can cause dermatitis, blistering, and infection on the more minor end of the injury scale just from coming into contact with them. On the more serious end, someone could experience a severe allergic reaction that causes anaphylaxis, which can result in death if not treated quickly.
No matter the injury, if it happens on the job, you are entitled to medical care and other benefits under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance plan. Unfortunately, not every employer willingly files a claim, and you may need to seek legal help to protect your rights.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to a work-related accident, schedule your free consultation with one of the experienced Mississippi workers’ compensation claim attorneys at Merkel & Cocke, P.A. Call us now at 662-302-2979, or feel free to reach out to us through our contact form. We have offices located in Jackson, Clarksdale, and Oxford for your convenience in addition to proudly serving clients in the City of Tupelo.
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, Mr. Cocke and Mr. Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 1982. Since that time the emphasis of Mr. Cocke’s practice has progressed toward medical malpractice. At the present time his practice is exclusively devoted to handling medical negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or on referral from other attorneys who are not familiar with the handling of medical negligence cases. Mr. Cocke was selected Best Lawyer of the year for 2012 and 2014 in The Memphis area in the field of Medical Malpractice and has been selected a Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Learn more about John Hartwell Cocke here.