On a clear, hot summer afternoon in the southcentral U.S., two timber cruisers were walking out of the woods after performing a timber cruise on an 80-acre tract of timber.
Both timber cruisers were experienced and were wearing high visibility cruiser's vests at the time of the incident. Neither cruiser was wearing a hard hat. The senior cruiser was above 60 years of age, with over 40 years of experience. The younger cruiser was in his thirties.
Unsafe Act or Condition
There was a nine to 10-foot-wide, five-foot-deep, U shaped, flat bottomed, dry ditch that had to be crossed on their way out. While it would have been easy to climb down into and back out of the ditch, the elder cruiser decided to jump across.
As the elder cruiser ran and attempted to jump over the ditch, his feet barely landed at the opposite bank's edge, but he lost his balance, falling backward into the ditch.
The elder cruiser landed on his back and slammed the back of his head into the bottom of the ditch. The victim did not lose consciousness and laid there for a short period. The younger cruiser descended into the ditch and told the victim to lie still, being cautious in case there was an injury. The victim began moving his arms and legs, then brought himself to a standing position with the younger cruiser's assistance. The two cruisers returned to their vehicle and drove to a nearby emergency care facility where it was determined that there were no significant injuries. The elder cruiser missed a few days of work due to soreness.
Recommendations for Correction
- Employees should never take unnecessary chances. It would have been easy to cross the ditch without jumping across.
- Hard hats should be worn. They may provide protection in a fall, and debris or limbs can fall at any time, particularly in windy conditions.
- While working alone is fairly common for foresters and timber cruisers, it is desirable to have more than one person in the field.
- Should working alone be unavoidable, making sure someone knows your planned location is a best practice. Carrying a communication device, such as a mobile phone, is also a best practice. Additionally, wearing high visibility clothing could assist in locating an injured party.