Safety Alert: Lodged Trees, Broken Limb Lead to Fatality

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Safety Alert

Background

A timber cutter was felling trees in a mixed pine and hardwood tract on a calm winter day in the Appalachians.
Personal Characteristics

The 45-year-old cutter had many years of experience in the woods. He had received training on directional felling techniques. He had all required personal protective equipment but was not using it at all times.
Unsafe Act or Condition

The timber cutter swung-cut a 15-inch poplar, and it fell uphill instead of downhill. The canopy lodged in a 15-inch diameter hickory and a 26-inch diameter poplar. The cutter then swung-cut the 26-inch poplar tree, which already had a smaller, 15-inch diameter poplar lodged in its canopy. Apparently, a limb that was 7 inches in diameter and about 25 feet long broke off and hung in the lodged hickory tree.
Instead of properly retreating away from the tree he had just cut, it appears that the cutter sat down about 6 feet from the stump, under the hickory tree. He took off his hard hat and began to sharpen his chain saw.
Accident

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The limb that had broken off in the canopy fell and struck the timber cutter on the head.
Injury

The timber cutter died from his injuries.
Recommendations

1. Do not use a swing cut as there is no hinge to control the falling tree.
2. Stress proper notching techniques. Both cuts of a notch must meet exactly to avoid bypass.
3. Never work near or under a lodged tree. Pull it down with a skidder.
4. Always clear and use a path of retreat obliquely back from a cut tree’s intended direction of fall.
5. Cutters must always be aware of overhead hazards and lodged trees and never place themselves in danger.
6. Wear a hard hat and other required personal protective equipment when working in the woods.

(Source: Forest Resources Assn.)