12-S-13: Timber Cutter Pinned Nearly Killed


On a sunny summer day in the Appalachians, a timber cutter was working in timber that had an
enormous amount of underbrush from past ice damage and was being selectively harvested and skidded
a long distance to the landing.

The timber cutter had 30 years of experience in the logging industry. He had been trained in chain saw safety and proper hinge techniques. He was wearing chain saw chaps, cut-resistant boots, hard hat, and eye protection.

The skidder had just left with a drag of logs as the timber cutter started to cut an 18-inch-di-
ameter maple with a big crown, growing in between two large oaks. The timber cutter noticed a large dead limb in one of the oaks and knew it was a hazard he needed to avoid—but he under- estimated the danger potential of the maple tree. He did not retreat far enough away from the falling maple.

As the cutter made his open-faced notch and released the maple, the limbs contacted the ground very quickly and caused the tree to roll toward the cutter. The lower bole of the tree hit him just below the knee and dragged him about 6 feet away with his heel pinned against a small log and the maple across his leg. The maple tree had also rolled onto the skid road, with the cutter pinned under and screened by the tree, unnoticeable to anyone coming back on the skid road. The cutter thought that when the skidder returned it would push the tree from the road, and he would be severely injured or killed.In pain, the cutter yelled for help and held his hard hat up with a stick, to no avail. As the skidder approached nearly 45 minutes later, it stopped just before reaching the tree. The cutter thought the operator had seen his hard hat, but the skidder had actually blown a hose on the water pump, and the operator stopped to see what was leaking. The operator heard the cutter screaming and ran to the accident, cut a pole, and lifted the tree enough to free the cutter. (The dead limb never fell.)

The cutter had fractured his leg and torn his meniscus. The cutter underwent orthopedic surgery and came back to work on “light duty” after four months.

•    When planning an escape route, do not overlook one hazard because of another.
•    Provide small hand-held radios for employees in remote areas.
•    Move at least 15 feet on a diagonally rearward retreat path from the tree after felling.
•     Skidder operators should always look for the cutter when coming or going from the harvest
area to ensure that the cutter is in a safe place and away from risk posed by the machine.
•    Ground workers should wear high-visibility vests or shirts for an added safety measure.
•    All crew members should be trained in first-aid and CPR techniques to assist injured work- ers
in remote areas.

Reviewed by:
Southwide Safety Committee;
Rick Meyer

Appalachian/Southwide Region Manager

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