20-S-07: Lowboy Operator’s Fingers Amputated


On a spring day in the Pacific Northwest, a lowboy operator was coupling the lowboy gooseneck to a lowbed trailer deck after loading and chaining down a processor.


While the operator had prior experience, it had been over ten years since he had last worked with a lowboy. The employer assumed that because the operator had experience, he did not need training.


The operator was coupling the lowboy gooseneck to a lowbed trailer deck after loading and chaining down a processor. During coupling, the hooks of the trailer did not fully couple over the steel pins of the gooseneck. It can be difficult to determine when this happens, as there is no good way to visually inspect the connections of the components.

After backing in the lowboy, he climbed under the machine counterbalance to place shims. The operator can only place shims by climbing in between the gooseneck and the trailer after the initial hookup is completed. The shims are stored on a keeper post on the rear of the gooseneck. He reached under the machine counterbalance to replace the cotter pin in the keeper post.


As the operator reached under the machine, he steadied himself with his left hand on the support frame of the gooseneck. At this point, the trailer detached from the gooseneck and fell to the ground.


The operator’s left middle finger and ring finger were crushed between the processor counterbalance and trailer gooseneck, partially amputating them.


  • Employers must adequately train employees to recognize safety and health hazards associated with the employee’s specific tasks and verify that employees can safely operate new equipment and complete assigned tasks.
  • Create a reference point on the trailer deck, by either painting or welding, to show when the trailer is all the way backed into the pins, ensuring proper coupling.
  • Wait to position and chain down a load on the trailer until after coupling is complete. In this case, for coupling, the processor should have been positioned to the rear of the trailer deck rather than towards the front. After coupling was complete, the processor should have been repositioned forward and chained down.

SA Lowboy Operators Fingers Amputated

Figure 1: Lowboy operator incident

Reviewed by:

Vickie Swanton, FRA Western Region Manager

Originally published by SHARP. Click here for their Logging Safety Brief.