Safety Alert: Ash Tree Under Tension ‘Explodes’, Injuring Cutter

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Safety Alert


It was the end of a cloudy fall day in the Appalachians with scattered showers nearby (but not on the logging site). The owner told the cutter to get one last tree before finishing up for the day. It was a forked ash tree with one fork remaining to be limbed.
Personal Characteristics

The 44-year-old cutter had about 10 years of experience in all aspects of logging, but he was least experienced in timber cutting. He was wearing all his safety equipment, including chainsaw pants, hardhat with eye and hearing protection, and chainsaw resistant boots. He had previously participated in a recognized chainsaw safety training class.
Unsafe Act or Condition

The cutter hooked up the ash tree and moved it by cable skidder down toward the main road on the hillside. He turned the skidder onto the road, but he released the mainline tension short of the road and inadvertently placed the ash, a tree known for ‘explosive’ wood under tension, in a bind. He carried a saw up the hill to trim the remaining fork. The cutter positioned himself between the forks of the ash tree.

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Before the cutter began to top the fork, it suddenly ‘exploded’ free, quickly hitting the cutter just below the knee. The accident happened near the landing, and the cutter was able to get the owner’s help. He was driven to a local hospital for treatment.

The cutter’s bone below the knee was broken. It required major surgery to repair, and he missed about two months of work.

The cutter should have pulled the tree all the way down the skid road before he completed trimming the tree. He should have been able to recognize the side of the tree from which he would have been safe to stand in case something went wrong while trimming. His lack of experience prevented him from recognizing the risk that the ash tree under tension presented.
An experienced cutter should be ready to assist and advise with training a new employee so high-risk behavior can be recognized and corrected. Basic instruction in recognizing hazardous situations should be given to all woods employees. Workers should also be aware that there can be a tendency to relax safety precautions at the end of the day.
(Source: Forest Resources Assn.)