Logger Seriously Injured in Crawler Tractor Rollover

Mon, 12/11/2000
Safety Alert

BACKGROUND: A crawler tractor operator was skidding logs in steep mountainous terrain on a clear autumn day in the southern Appalachians.

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS: The 42-year-old employee had worked for his present employer about 15 years and had no previous record of accidents. He was considered fully trained. He was not wearing personal protective equipment, as he considered it unnecessary while inside the cab of the tractor. He was not wearing a seat belt.

UNSAFE ACT OR CONDITION: Around mid-day, a timber cutter was preparing to fell a 20-inch-diameter hardwood tree on a steep slope. The crawler tractor operator and the timber cutter agreed to attach the tractor winch cable to the tree prior to felling, to keep the tree from sliding downhill out of range of the winch cable.

ACCIDENT: The medium-sized crawler tractor was equipped with a logging arch and was set on a semi-level shelf on the mountainside, with the winch cable attached to the tree approximately 125 feet downslope. When the tree was cut, it fell with enough leverage to topple the crawler tractor backward. The tractor flipped end over end at least five times down the mountainside before coming to rest.

INJURY: The operator was thrown forward and out of the tractor on the second flip. He hit the exhaust pipe as he was thrown from the tractor, and the winch cable struck his head. He suffered a broken pelvis, a ruptured disc in his back, shoulder injuries, a deep gash across his scalp, and burns from the exhaust pipe. The local rescue squad transported him to the hospital, where he stayed for one month. He was expected to miss at least one year of work.


  • Crawler tractor operators should always wear seat belts. It's usually safer to stay inside a ROPS/FOPS cab during a rollover.
  • Exercise extreme caution and carefully analyze potential dangers before attaching a winch cable to a tree prior to felling it. Do not exceed the skidder/dozer's load capacity during winching.
  • No tree is so valuable or so important that it is worth risking one's life over!
Reviewed By:
Rick Meyer
Appalachian Technical Division Forester


Please follow equipment manufacturers' recommendations for safe operation and maintenance procedures.