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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is considering a new standard on tree care operations that could add additional requirements to workers when dealing with trees, including those on construction sites.

OSHA says that the fatality and injury rates for tree trimmers and pruners are extraordinarily high and that there is no existing OSHA standard for Tree Care Operations. Some of the work requirements OSHA may include in a new standard include written safety and health programs, job hazard analyses, and guidance on personal protective equipment.

OSHA next week will complete a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel to explore the impact of a new standard on small businesses as required under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA).

Home builder and remodeler Carl Chretien, owner of Maine-based Chretien Construction and Vice President of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Maine, served as a Small Entity Representative on OSHA’s SBAR panel for the potential new standard.

Chretien noted in a detailed letter to OSHA that the current scope of the standard it is considering is overly broad and potentially harmful to small home builders like his company.

“The general requirements of Tree Care Operations Standard are burdensome and much too expensive for a residential home builder that only performs work on smaller trees,” he wrote.

Chretien is urging OSHA to better define a “tree” and exempt from the requirements of the standard work that is done on smaller trees. He proposes exempting work done on trees under 6 inches in diameter and shorter than 20 feet.

“If OSHA does not agree with this exemption, the Agency needs to develop some other approach that exempts this routine, low-risk work, which home builders routinely perform,” he notes.

OSHA’s SBAR panel report will be entered into the docket on Regulations.gov and the rulemaking will move to the next phase, which will involve public comment. NAHB will closely monitor the advancement of the potential new standard and provide appropriate comment.

For more information on OSHA safety regulations, contact Rob Matuga.