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California Success Stories
CALIFORNIA
Telling Worker Stories: Preventing Wood Chipper Fatalities

The Challenge: Since 1992, the California Department of Public Health’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program has investigated ten tree worker fatalities, five involving a wood chipping machine. FACE staff wanted a new format for reaching tree care employers and workers with useful prevention recommendations.

The Response: FACE developed a digital story using photos, worker recounts, and investigation findings to tell the tragic story of Antonio Barajas, a 32-year-old husband and father of a four-month-old son, who worked for a professional tree trimming company. One day, he and two other employees were gathering brush to feed into a wood chipper. Antonio dragged a branch to the machine that was caught in a tree trimmer’s climbing rope. The rope went through the wood chippers’ blades and snapped tight, throwing Antonio against the machine. Antonio’s neck broke, and his life was gone in an instant.

The digital story included recommendations for placing debris in piles and checking for unwanted objects before feeding them into a wood chipper and having a co-worker act as a “safety watch” near the wood chipper safety control bar to reverse or shut down the machine in an emergency. FACE put the digital story on its website and YouTube; publicized it in an electronic newsletter, through tweets, and Facebook posts; and partnered with the nation’s largest tree care trade association to help promote the video to employers, workers, and chipper manufacturers.
 

The Impact: FACE sent the digital story recommendations along with other investigation materials to Cal/OSHA in support of increased tree worker protections. Cal/OSHA revised its tree care regulations, noting that changes were made based on the FACE program’s recommendations.

The digital story reached numerous tree work professionals through the tree care industry association. This association integrated the digital story, along with FACE fact sheets and investigation reports, into its educational curriculum. FACE disseminated the digital story through other federal and state agencies. It has been shown at numerous public health and trade conferences. It has also become a leading example of how “new” and “social” media can be used to engage workers on health and safety topics.

Additional Information
Laura Styles MPH, FACE Program
California Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Branch
850 Marina Bay Parkway, Building P, 3rd Floor
Richmond, CA 94804
Email: laura.styles@cdph.ca.gov; Tel.: 510-620-5772; Fax: 510-620-5743
Occupational Health Branch Web Page: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/ohb
FACE Program Web Page: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/ohb-face
Digital Story Link (YouTube): http://youtu.be/7NKZM9IISEk
Digital Story Topic Page: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/ohb-face/Pages/Stories.aspx
 
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