Safety Alert: Felling with Match Cut Contributes to Fatal Mishap

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Safety Alert

A mechanical thinning crew was harvesting a tract that included a stream-side management zone (SMZ). Selected hardwood trees in the zone were to be manually felled away from the creek.
This crew rarely cut timber manually. Crew employees included a 68-year-old sawhand whose normal job was to top large hardwood trees that were mechanically cut. His job on this day was to fell trees out of the SMZ. He reportedly was experienced at felling timber but was not wearing any personal protective equipment.
The sawhand was match cutting a 16-inch dbh oak tree away from the stream. Match cutting (or flat cutting) is an unsafe technique. A cut is made into the front of the tree in the direction of the intended fall, and a second cut is made into the back of the tree, with the back cut supposed to meet the front cut. No notch or hinge is used. There is very little felling accuracy and virtually no tree control.
The oak was forked at 46 feet. Two 7-inch diameter hardwood trees were located directly in the path of the oak as it began to fall. The sawhand backed off about five feet directly behind the falling tree.
The falling oak struck the two small hardwood trees at its fork, and the oak rebounded back at the sawhand. As it rebounded, it also hit a high stump, causing the stem to become airborne
The stem struck the sawhand in the head, and he was killed.
• Employers should provide training for each employee regarding (1) safe performance of assigned work tasks; (2) safe use, operation and maintenance of tools and machines; and (3) recognition of safety hazards associated with the employee’s specific work tasks, including the use of measures and work practices to prevent or control the hazards.
• All sawhands should use proper felling techniques, which include using a notch cut and a back cut that leave sufficient hinge wood to hold the tree to the stump during most of its fall and to guide the tree’s fall in the intended direction.
• Sawyers should plan and execute an escape route diagonally away from the felling direction. The sawhand should continue to move away from the tree as it falls to minimize the risk of being struck by potential kick-back.
• Employers should monitor the butt logs coming to the log deck for safe felling techniques.
• Sawhands should wear all personal protective equipment as OSHA requires.