With the holiday season now in full swing, a recent Associated Press article, republished in The Oregonian, highlighted both the importance of the Christmas tree industry to our local economy and the importance of workplace safety.
The Salem-datelined piece begins with the image of 50,000 freshly cut Christmas trees stacked in a Polk County loading area near Dallas, Oregon. “Some 200 workers are busy at the site,” the news agency notes. “Tree after tree is placed on mechanical shakers to remove loose needles, run through bailing machines and wrapped with twine, tossed on a conveyer belt and, finally, loaded into trucks.”
Oregon is the country’s top grower of Christmas Trees, producing a stunning 6.4 million during last year’s holiday season. While Christmas tree harvesting is significantly different from the larger, year-round lumber industry it is still dangerous work – involving, as the article indicates, potentially dangerous machinery operated in the open, including chainsaws.
More troubling, the Christmas tree industry also relies heavily on short-term, seasonal workers. These workers not only deserve but are legally entitled to a safe work environment, appropriate training and the use of properly maintained equipment. One of the most significant causes of Oregon industrial accidents is a form of employer negligence: failure to provide workers with the right gear and the necessary training, often combined with a tendency to cut corners when it comes to maintenance. This can be a problem in any industry, but in an acknowledged dangerous job, a category that includes the timber industry, it is especially worrisome. Add to that a workforce swelled with short-term seasonal employees and a commercial incentive to move as much product as possible during the short holiday season and the potential for trouble is obvious.
As an Oregon industrial accidents attorney I do everything I can to help workers and their families guard against negligence and corner-cutting by employers. When you stop somewhere to buy a Christmas Tree during this holiday season pause for a moment to think about the men and women who work so hard to bring it to you, often laboring in potentially dangerous conditions.
AP via The Oregonian: Christmas tree harvest keeps Oregon farms busy, growers optimistic for strong sales