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State regulators have cited a La Mesa real estate firm with $91,865 in penalties following a workplace tree-trimming accident that killed an employee on Nov. 12, 2013. Joshua Alan Pudsey, 42, was in the bucket of a boom lift when he was struck by a 25-foot branch that fell from a 60-foot-tall eucalyptus tree at a home at 4450 Date Ave. in La Mesa. The property was owned by Three Frogs, Inc., which buys, renovates and resells residential property, according to an investigation by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA. Pudsey was a general construction laborer who had been working for the company for three months before the accident, and he did not have the training or experience needed to safely trim a tree of that size, Cal/OSHA found.

State law requires employers to hire qualified tree workers to direct all work on trees taller than 15 feet. Pudsey and other workers on the job were not trained to use the 80-foot aerial lift they used to cut the tree, nor were they provided with eye protection or harnesses to protect them from falls while working on the lift, the Cal/OSHA investigation found.

Three Frogs owner Scot Wolfe said his firm was cooperating with state regulators. “OSHA’s just doing their job,” Wolfe said. “We don’t fault them for doing their job at all.” Wolfe declined to answer other questions about his company but did offer condolences to Pudsey’s family. “A man died on the job,” Wolfe said. “Our hearts go out to his family, obviously.”

Altogether, Cal/OSHA has issued 13 citations against Three Frogs, including eight serious citations. (A violation is considered serious when it could directly result in death or serious physical harm.) Five of the serious citations were related to the accident and the company’s violation of the tree removal standard, such as the company failure to maintain an Injury and Illness Prevention Plan or a written Heat Illness Prevention Program, according to Cal/OSHA. “When safety takes a backseat to the bottom line, tragedies such as this one will result,” said acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum in a press release. “Companies that cut corners by not abiding by workplace safety regulations put their employees at direct risk of numerous hazards.”

The state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ordered the company to stop work on Nov. 13 after the state Labor Commissioner found the company failed to provide worker’s compensation coverage for its employees. The stop order will remain in place until Three Frogs demonstrates that a workers’ comp policy is in effect, regulators said. The investigation into labor practices is ongoing, and regulators also have an ongoing criminal investigation.