Logging Deaths Dip; Falling Objects Leading Fatality Cause

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According to government stats, logging-related deaths are dropping as industry become safety focused.

Fatal logging accidents declined during the 1990s, according to an analysis by the Forest Resources Association.

The association analyzed data about work-related fatalities that was supplied by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. It studied figures for 1992-1999 in order to analyze the major causes of logging-related fatalities.

The association studied data for two occupational codes, logging supervisors and also timber cutting and logging workers, to identify those who suffered fatal occupational injuries.

From a high of 146 in 1992, the number of reported fatalities for loggers declined three consecutive years to 110 in 1995. The number of fatalities climbed again to 129 in 1996, declined to 121 in 1997 and to a low of 107 in 1998, then reached 112 in 1999. The average number of fatalities per year during the eight-year period was 124.

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Of the 991 total logging-related fatalities in the government database, 67% resulted from contact with falling objects, such as trees, limbs, tops and logs. These incidents include:

• trees striking the logger who is felling it or striking another worker;

• parts of a tree striking workers during felling, limbing or topping;

• logs striking workers during loading, unloading or skidding operations.

A closer evaluation of the data revealed that 78% of deaths caused by contact with falling objects occurred while felling trees.

Contact with equipment, such as skidders, feller-bunchers and log loaders, accounted for 14% of all reported fatal logging injuries. In this category, the three leading causes of death were: being struck by or run over by equipment, equipment roll-over, and injuries suffered while performing maintenance or repairs. During 1998-1999, 28 out of 37 equipment-related deaths occurred when logging equipment ran over workers (15 incidents) or equipment rolled over operators (13 incidents).

Chain saw-related fatalities comprised only 2% of all logging-related deaths during the study period. Most chain-saw related fatal accidents were associated with the logger’s falling onto a running chain saw after being struck by a falling tree, limb or top.

Log truck and vehicle accidents caused 4% of all reported fatalities of logging supervisors and workers. (This figure does not include fatalities to full-time truck drivers who transport raw wood products.)

Other causes of fatal injuries accounted for 13% of the total reported deaths of loggers. These miscellaneous causes of fatal injuries included electrocution, falls, suicide-shootings, and death from unknown causes.

The time of fatal accidents was noted in 621 of 991 cases. The highest number of logging deaths occurred between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. with a second peak between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

A recent study in New Zealand by that country’s Logging Industry Research Organization also revealed a peak in logger fatalities during the later morning hours. Further researched revealed that many loggers skip breakfast and drink lots of coffee, which causes them to become dehydrated and run low on food ‘energy’ before stopping for lunch – increasing their risk of a work-related injury. Proper hydration and nutrition can help prevent logging accidents.

The analysis by the Forest Resources Association was made possible by a grant from the National Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety foundation.