SCHNECKSVILLE, PA – On a Tuesday afternoon in the summer of August 2022, federal workplace safety inspectors responded to a police report that a 17-year-old worker had suffered fatal injuries after being pulled into a woodchipper at a work site near Allentown.

A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation determined that the teen’s employer – a Lehigh Valley tree service company owned and operated by Adam Atiyeh – could have prevented the incident by following required federal safety standards.

OSHA learned that the young worker was partially pulled into a woodchipper as he fed entangled material into the machine on Aug. 9, 2022, at a Schnecksville site and later died from his injuries. Investigators were told the company had allowed three minor-aged workers to operate the woodchipper, a hazardous occupation forbidden by federal child labor laws.

Agency investigators found the employer, which operates as both Adam’s Tree Service and Adam’s Tree Removal and Trimming, failed to:

Provide and make sure employees used personal protective equipment including safety shoes, safety glasses, gloves and hard hats.
Train workers to safely operate a woodchipper.
Have personnel at the work site with first aid training.
Maintain portable fire extinguishers at the work site.
The agency issued the company and Atiyeh citations for 10 serious safety violations and proposed total penalties of $136,613.

“The dangers of tree-trimming and operating a woodchipper are obvious and widely known, and yet this employer exposed a teenager to deadly risks. Now his family, friends and co-workers are left to mourn,” said OSHA Area Office Director Jean Kulp in Allentown. “The willingness of this company and its owner Adam Atiyeh to expose workers without proper safety equipment and training to such hazardous work is hard to understand. Employing minors to do this work is unconscionable.”

OSHA has referred the alleged child labor violations to the department’s Wage and Hour Division for further investigation.

Based in Schnecksville, Atiyeh and his company provide services for property owners in Bethlehem, Schnecksville and throughout Lehigh County.

The employer has 15 business days from receipt of citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Learn more about OSHA’s safety standards for the tree care industry.

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