Tree-Trimming Fatality At Three Frogs, Inc Prompts Cal/OSHA Big Fines

17 Apr

Cal/OSHA recently issued citations with proposed penalties of $91,865 to Three Frogs, Inc., a La Mesa-based real estate investment company following the investigation of a fatal tree-trimming accident. A 42-year-old employee was killed last November when he was struck by a large section of a 60-foot-tall eucalyptus tree he was helping to remove from the employer’s property.

The employee had been working as a general construction laborer at various properties owned by Three Frogs for approximately three months when the accident occurred; neither he nor any of the other construction laborers employed by Three Frogs had experience or training needed to safely cut down a tree of that size.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation revealed that Three Frogs, Inc., a company that purchases, renovates and resells residential properties, had failed to employ a qualified tree worker which is required by law to direct all work related to tree trimming, tree repair or removal of trees that exceed 15-feet in height. Cal/OSHA determined that the workers were not trained to use the 80-foot aerial lift that elevated the employees to cut the tree, and were also not provided eye protection or a fall protection harness while working in the lift.

“When safety takes a backseat to the bottom line, tragedies such as this one will result,” said acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Companies that cut corners by not abiding by workplace safety regulations put their employees at direct risk of numerous hazards.”

Cal/OSHA issued 13 citations against Three Frogs, Inc. for violations of California’s workplace safety regulations, including eight that were serious in nature. Five of the eight serious citations issued are accident-related. A serious workplace safety violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. Cal/OSHA’s Bureau of Investigations (BOI), which investigates fatalities and other serious injuries, has an ongoing criminal investigation as well.

The five general citations issued to Three Frogs, Inc. relate to additional violations of the tree removal standard, including the company’s failure to have an Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP). All California employers are required to have an IIPP as a foundation for establishing a safe workplace. The company also lacked a written Heat Illness Prevention Program, another requirement at outdoor worksites.

The California Labor Commissioner’s office, otherwise known as DIR’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), opened another investigation into the company following a referral from another state agency of possible labor violations. Three Frogs was cited on November 13, 2013 and ordered to stop operations after the Labor Commissioner found that the business failed to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. The stop order will be removed once Three Frogs demonstrates that a workers’ comp policy is in effect and meanwhile the investigation into labor practices is still active.

SOURCE California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA

Employers with questions about Cal/OSHA should contact Don Dressler: 949-533-3742 or email:

  • dondressler1@hotmail.com
  • One Response to “Tree-Trimming Fatality At Three Frogs, Inc Prompts Cal/OSHA Big Fines”

    1. Paul Bush April 19, 2014 at 12:18 am #

      Don, This is not the first tree trimming tragedy I’ve heard about. Several years ago now a Newport Beach couple lost their home and the husband was jailed after an undocumented worker employed by their long-time but unlicensed landscape maintenance contractor was found hanging dead, electrocuted in one of their trees. One of my first acts as successor trustee of my Mother’s estate to fire the gardener.Best Regards. PBB

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