Safety is a frequent topic for Tree Services.

And that’s the way it should be.

After all, what’s more important than safety on the jobsite? What matters more than returning home to your family each night, in one piece? Safety is the end-all, be-all in the tree care profession, and that’s why we dedicate so much space in these pages to educating and reminding you about best safety practices.

Your well-being is always the number one priority.

Along these same lines, organizations like the Tree Care Industry Association also make your safety their top priority. This is the reason for the TCIA’s annual accident/incident report—to show you what kind of injuries are happening most in the field and to educate you on what to watch out for.

As we all know, the tree care profession is inherently a dangerous one—workers in the field risks their lives every day climbing up, climbing down and using dangerous equipment. And, despite safety precautions, high-tech gear, education and training, accidents will and do happen.

The TCIA reviewed the 147 occupational tree care accidents reported to the media, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and industry colleagues in 2015. Of these 147 accidents reported last year, 92 were fatal.

In 2014, 81 of 126 reported accidents were fatal.

In 2013, 79 were fatal.

As you can see, the number of fatal incidents has increased each of the last few years, and that’s not good.

“Moving from average-to-good or good-to-great in hazard recognition and avoidance is mostly about vigilance,” said Peter Gerstenberger, TCIA’s senior advisor for safety, standards and compliance, in the report. “In a culture of safety, all employees are trained to recognize hazards and conditioned to be risk-averse, not only for themselves but for their fellow workers.”

As the TCIA explains in the report, while the overall number of incidents doesn’t seem to have changed drastically from year to year, there does seem to have been a downward trend in one statistic—the number of overall electrical incidents as well as the percentage of electrical incidents (as compared to other causes) has both declined in recent years. As a percentage of all fatal occupational incidents, electrical contact comprised 14 percent in 2011, 22 percent in 2012, 15 percent in 2013, 14 percent in 2014 and seven percent in 2015.

In 2015, the average age of the accident victim was 43. Victims were typically out of the mainstream of the profession, according to the TCIA’s report — not members of any organization, and likely not using educational programs or publications, nor attending trade shows or conferences. Among all the cases where a company could be identified, only 17 percent were TCIA members and 83 percent were non-members, the report detailed.

So what can be done to bring these accidents/incidents down, fatal and non-fatal?

The TCIA offers safety workshops and certification programs designed to prevent the kind of incidents detailed in this report. Arborists can enroll in the Certified Treecare Safety Professional program to become the go-to safety expert on the jobsite and enhance their careers. TCIA also facilitates workshops that specifically address electrical hazards, aerial lift/rescue operations, chipper operations and other safety disciplines.

Go to TCIA.org to see a full list of upcoming TCIA workshops, many of which are offered at a low or reduced price courtesy of Tree Care Industry Association Foundation’s (TCIAF) Arborist Safety Training Institute (ASTI).

Also, a number of arborist manufacturers/retailers offer training seminars at their facilities throughout the country in which tree-centric subjects or equipment are explained and demonstrated, most in a one-day session in a field or classroom setting.

So 12 months from now, let’s hope the 2016 report shows fewer accidents than in years past.

Please, do yourself and your loved ones a giant favor—be safe out there.