TREE FALLS WRONG WAY, KILLING FELLER
BACKGROUND: On a summer morning in the Appalachians, a timber feller was attempting to cut an uphill-leaning tree in a downward direction.
PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS: The 48-year-old timber feller had been cutting timber for at least 25 years. He was not wearing any personal protective equipment, and he had not participated in any formal logging safety training program.
UNSAFE ACT OR CONDITION: The timber feller, ignoring his partner's offer to assist him in directing the tree's fall with a skidder, attempted to make the slightly uphill-leaning tree fall downhill. He did not use a notch, hinge, wedge, or other directional-felling technique, and he had not cleared an escape path. As he finished the cut, the tree set back and began falling uphill. As the feller retreated uphill at a slight angle away from the tree's fall path, his foot became entangled in branches and brush.
ACCIDENT: As he freed himself, the falling tree struck the skidder, which had been parked above the tree on the skid road, bounced off, and struck the timber feller.
INJURY: The timber feller received extensive upper-body injuries. He remained conscious but paralyzed until shortly after the arrival of emergency medical service technicians' arrival, and died at the scene.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CORRECTION:
- Although unincorporated partnerships without employees are not governed by OSHA, personnel should be sure they are acquainted with, and follow, the same safe practices employees are mandated to follow.
- Employers must ensure that timber fellers utilize proper directional felling techniques, including the use of sufficient hinge wood to hold the tree and guide its fall.
- Employers should ensure that tree fellers utilize wedges, in addition to proper felling techniques, on trees with back lean. It is often safer to use a skidder or other machine to complete the final severing and guide the tree's fall.
- Employers should ensure that tree fellers clear an escape path diagonally away from the tree's direction of fall and move a safe distance from the base of the tree.
WVU Center for Rural Emergency Medicine
WVU FACE Program
P.O. Box 9151
Morgantown, West Virginia 25606-9151
Appalachian/Southeastern Technical Division Forester
Please follow equipment manufacturers' recommendations for safe operation and maintenance procedures.