IGNORING "TWICE TREE HEIGHT" RULE LEADS TO FATALITY
BACKGROUND: On a clear, cool, late fall day in the Appalachians, two logging business partners were select cutting and trimming hardwood timber on fairly level terrain.
PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS: The 47-year-old owner/operator had worked as a logger for over 20 years, was considered fully trained, and was wearing personal protective equipment. His previous accident history was unknown. His 44-year-old business partner had been logging for over 15 years, was considered fully trained, and was wearing personal protective equipment. His previous accident history was unknown.
UNSAFE ACTS AND CONDITIONS: While the owner/operator was trimming a felled tree, his business partner was felling a 20-inch-diameter oak approximately 35 feet away-the two individuals were working too closely to one another.
When the business partner completed bore cuts on both sides of the 20-inch-diameter tree, before he could complete the backcut, a slight wind caused the tree to sit back hard on his saw, pinching it. The business partner walked over to the owner/operator to ask for assistance in freeing his pinched saw.
ACCIDENT: The tree with the pinched saw suddenly broke loose, fell, and landed on top of the owner/operator, pinning him to the ground. The business partner grabbed the owner/operator's saw and began to cut the top of the tree off of the victim. He cut a limb that was under severe pressure, and the limb broke loose and struck him in the leg, throwing him about 15 feet.
INJURIES: The skidder operator was nearby, and he went for help. The EMT arrived and was unable to revive the owner/operator, who was killed from the impact of the falling tree. The business partner was air-lifted to a hospital. He had suffered a broken leg that required surgery and insertion of pins. Suffering from the trauma of his injury and the death of the owner/operator (who was his cousin), the logging business partner stated that his logging days were over.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CORRECTION: OSHA regulations stipulate that work areas shall be assigned so that trees cannot fall into an adjacent occupied work area. Furthermore, the distance between adjacent occupied work areas shall be at least two tree lengths of the trees being felled (or greater if terrain or conditions warrant). Maintain communication among crew members, and know everyone's working location.
When starting on a new harvesting site, ensure that crew members or the crew supervisor have all local emergency phone numbers. In the event of an injury or other emergency, try to stay calm and assess the situation before beginning to rescue or help a victim. Prepare a rescue plan in advance, and then execute the plan correctly to avoid becoming another victim and making a bad situation worse. Conduct periodic safety meetings-at least monthly-with the logging crew.
Appalachian/Southeastern Region Manager