- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.
March 4, 1998
Deputy Executive Director
National Arborist Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 1094
Amherst, NH 03031-1094
Dear Ms. Reinert,
I want to thank you meeting with me to discuss the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Logging Operations Standard (29 CFR 1910.266). The questions you have raised about whether the standard applies to commercial tree trimming and care indicate that this issue needs to be clarified. As such, I will be sending this letter of interpretation to all our field offices. I apologize for any delay in responding to your questions.
There are many types of operations involved in logging. They include, but are not limited to, felling trees, cutting branches off trees and logs, cutting felled trees into logs, chipping branches, and moving felled trees and logs. The hazards that the Logging Operations Standard (29 CFR 1910.266) is intended to address are present in all of these operations. These hazards include the massive weights of tree branches and trees, especially the irresistible momentum of falling, moving or rolling trees and branches. The tools and equipment that employees use to perform these operations, such as chain saws, axes, and chippers, also pose hazards wherever they are utilized in industry. The hazards are even more acute when dangerous environmental conditions, such as severe rain, lightening, strong winds, snow, ice, extreme cold, rough terrain, and remote or isolated work sites, are factored in. "The combination of these hazards presents a significant risk to employees." 59 Federal Register 51672, 51673, Oct. 12, 1994 (Preamble to the final Logging Operations Standard).
The operations, tools, equipment, environmental conditions, and hazards described above are found in commercial tree trimming and cutting operations as well as tree harvesting operations. That is why the Logging Operations standard includes such a broad definition of the operations to which the standard applies:
This standard establishes safety practices, means, methods, and operations for all types of logging, regardless of the end use of the wood. 29 CFR 1910.266(b)(1).
Logging operations. Operations associated with felling and moving trees and logs from the stump to the point of delivery, such as, but not limited to, marking, felling, bucking, limbing, debarking, chipping, yarding, loading, unloading, storing, and transporting machines, equipment and personnel from one site to another. 29 CFR 1910.266(c).
OSHA believes this definition is broad enough to include commercial tree cutting and trimming, operations which OSHA did not expressly exempt from coverage of the Logging Operations Standard. OSHA exempted only two logging operations from coverage of the standard: construction of cable yarding systems and the use of cable yarding systems. 29 CFR 1910.266(b)(1). Even there, OSHA has specified that tree cutting operations leading up to the use of the cable yarding system are covered by the standard because "the hazards for loggers felling trees exist regardless of how the trees or logs are moved about the work site." 59 Federal Register 51672, 51698. For the same reason, when OSHA decided not to include logging road construction operations in the final standard, the agency said that cutting of trees in preparation of construction activities nevertheless would still be covered by the standard. 59 Federal Register 51699. And OSHA applied the same rationale in including in the standard the cutting of trees in preparation for agricultural activities. 59 Federal Register 51699. These examples provide further indication that OSHA's intention in promulgating the Logging Operations Standard was to address hazards associated with cutting trees, wherever those hazards are found, including commercial tree trimming and cutting operations.
In addition, specific provisions in the Logging Operations Standard directed to the particular circumstances of operations such as commercial tree trimming and cutting also show that the standard applies to these operations. For example, OSHA provides two exceptions to the leg protection requirements that are directed to operations such as commercial tree trimming as opposed to tree harvesting. 29 CFR 1910.266(d)(1)(iv). First, OSHA does not require chain saw operators to wear leg protection if the operator is working from inside a bucket truck, a type of equipment that is not generally used in forest locations. Also, OSHA does not require climbers to wear leg protection while operating a chain saw in a tree if the employer demonstrates that a greater hazard is posed by wearing leg protection in the particular situation.
The provisions in the Logging Operations Standard addressing operations near overhead electric lines also are directed to operations such as commercial tree trimming, since it is generally very unlikely that power lines will be found in remote forest locations where tree harvesting operations are performed. 29 CFR 1910.266(d)(8). Likewise, certain provisions regarding chain saw operation are specifically directed to operations such as commercial tree trimming. For example, the standard provides that chain saws may be started either on the ground or "where otherwise firmly supported." 29 CFR 1910.266(c)(2)(vi). This alternative was included in the final standard in recognition of the fact that it would be a greater hazard to climb a tree to trim it with a running chain saw. 59 Federal Register 51712. Another example regarding chain saw operation is the exception OSHA provided to the requirement that the operator hold the chain saw with both hands while in use. 29 CFR 1910.266(e)(2)(viii). In the preamble to the standard, OSHA explained:
OSHA believes there are other situations in which the hazard may be greater if the operator attempts to hold the saw with two hands. For example, when an operator has climbed a tree to top the tree, the operator may not be able to keep his balance if he tries to operate the saw with both hands. In that case, the safest method may be to use one hand to control the saw and the other hand to steady himself. 59 Federal Register 51713.
For all of these reasons, OSHA again states that the Logging Operations Standard applies to operations such as commercial tree trimming and cutting. OSHA believes that the equipment requirements, safe work practices and training provisions included in the Logging Operations Standard will significantly reduce the risks that workers, such as commercial tree trimmers, face and will reduce the injuries that occur as a result of exposure to the hazards associated with cutting and trimming trees.
Once again, we appreciate your time and interest in coming in to discuss these important workplace safety and health issues. If you have further questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me or Russelle McCollough on my staff at 202-219-8031.
John B. Miles , Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs