Mon, 05/01/2000
Safety Alert


BACKGROUND: On a sunny summer morning, a skidder operator was pulling his first load of the day through steep terrain in the Appalachians.

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS: The 43-year-old skidder operator had some previous logging experience two years earlier, but he had been employed for only two weeks on this operation. He was operating a rented grapple skidder, and his level of experience was low for the steep skid trails and switchbacks on the tract. He was wearing a hard hat, but he was not using the seatbelt.

UNSAFE ACT OR CONDITION: The skidder was traveling downhill too fast with a full load of logs. As the operator reached a steep point where skid trails converged and descended steeply, the load of logs shifted downhill.

ACCIDENT: The logs slid down a steep embankment and caused the skidder to overturn and roll over three or four times, until it came to rest against a stump.

INJURY: The skidder operator's head struck the upright supports in the skidder cab. He fractured his skull and nose, and he received numerous facial injuries. He was life-flighted to the hospital. It was estimated that he would lose six months of work. The damage to the skidder cost approximately $500 to repair.


  1. Require the use of seatbelts when operating skidders and other ROPS/FOPS machines.
  2. Newly hired equipment operators should be kept under direct supervision until the operator's skill and experience level have been determined to be acceptable.
  3. Ensure that equipment operators are fully familiar and "checked out" with their piece of equipment.
  4. Slow down in steep terrain!

Rick Meyer
Appalachian Technical Division Forester

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