Safety Alert: Equipment Operator Drops Tree Onto Power Line

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On a summer morning in the Southcentral U.S., an equipment operator was felling a natural pine stand with a feller-buncher. The terrain was level, and weather conditions were dry and sunny, with a light wind. There was a moderate level of underbrush in the timber stand.

Personal Characteristics:

The 45-year-old equipment operator had been employed in the logging business for approximately ten years. He was considered fully trained and had no known accident history.

Unsafe Act & Condition:

Although this logging crew had conducted a safety meeting prior to the start of the harvest on this tract two days before—and they had discussed the power line along private roads on this tract—the equipment operator lost his sense of direction while harvesting. He had been felling trees and laying them down, turning frequently as he worked. He approached close to the road with a power line as he worked.


The operator felled a 12-inch-diameter pine and laid it down. The top of this tree contacted and broke one wire on a nearby 3-wire power line.


Fortunately, no one was injured, and no one touched the broken line. The logging company immediately called the power company; power was restored within a few hours.

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Whenever possible, maintain a safe operating distance of at least 50 feet (more for tall trees) from a power line for all harvesting activities.

When unsure about the exact location or safety of harvesting trees near a power line, leave all trees near the power line standing or contact the power company for assistance prior to felling. Know how to contact the power line company in case of an accident. Provide the identification number of the power line poles to help identify the line location.

Treat all power lines as if they are live. Do not approach downed power lines, and do not attempt to cut or move trees that touch power lines. If equipment contacts and remains in contact with a live power line, the operator should remain in the machine until electricity is cut off. If the electricity cannot be cut off, or the threat of fire is extreme, the operator should jump clear of the equipment before contacting the ground.

Logging operations should conduct a safety meeting with all employees to discuss power line hazards and safety procedures before initial work begins on a tract when power lines are present.

Source: Forest Resources Association