OAK VIEW, CA – A worker who was suffocated by palm fronds last week brought the death toll to 4 in similar incidents in California. The man apparently was pruning a tree about 10:40 a.m. near Almond Avenue and Andrus Street when he somehow got stuck, Ventura County Fire Department officials said.
California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program (CA/FACE) program issued a report and video on this hazard in February 2014. The drought in the Western U.S. may have intensified the problem as lack of water has led to palm trees heavy with fronds creating the potential to crush workers who are trimming the tress from underneath the palm fronds.
When a tree trimmer cuts or pulls on dead fronds, adjacent fronds or an entire ring of fronds may collapse and encase the worker. The weight of the fronds causes pressure on the worker’s chest and can lead to suffocation. In the cases identified through CA/FACE, the workers climbed up the tree and trimmed the fronds from the bottom up, placing themselves directly beneath the fronds. Neither the workers nor the supervisors were certified tree workers.
They did not follow proper safety procedures or use the correct equipment. The workers were pinned by thick layers of dead fronds and suffocated to death.