Timber Cutter Fails to Account for Dead Snag
On a clear, cold, winter day in the eastern U.S., a chain saw operator was felling trees next to a logging road.
The cutter was in his thirties, was considered very experienced, and was wearing full personal protective equipment.
Unsafe Act and Condition
The logging operation failed to identify and remove dead timber before the chain saw operator began cutting in this area. As the cutter felled a tree, he stood with his back toward a snag (dead tree) that was standing on the opposite side of the logging road.
The impact of the live tree hitting the ground caused the snag to snap and fall across the road, striking the timber cutter on his head and back.
The cutter suffered a backbone injury as well as contusions and muscle and nerve damage to his back and neck area. It was uncertain whether he would be able to return to work. The impact tore the hard hat suspension, but the shell remained intact; the hard hat probably saved the timber cutter’s life.
Recommendations for Correction
- All tracts should receive a cursory evaluation prior to harvesting operations, and any hazards should be identified. All operators should conduct another pre-job safety assessment of the area they will be working in each day (in case something was missed in the initial survey or if conditions have changed).
- Mark all danger or hazard trees with flagging tape or other suitable method until the dead timber can be immediately felled by the cutter or (preferably) pushed over with a skidder or other mechanized equipment.
- On-the-ground crew members should not work within “twice tree height” of any hung, dead, or other hazardous tree.
- “Stop work” criteria should be clearly stated with all crew members. Any change in the conditions or any hazard that is noted should cause work to stop until the situation has been reviewed/corrected.