Safety Alert: Skidder Operator Killed in Steep-Slope Rollover

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On a clear, dry, fall afternoon in the Appalachians, a skidder operator was skidding and winching a load uphill. The terrain was very steep with occasional slight benches.

Personal Characteristics:

The skidder operator was in his mid-20s and had worked on and off for two logging contractors for approximately eight months. Although he was trained in the basics of skidder operation, he had not previously operated on excessively steep slopes. He was not wearing a seat belt.

Unsafe Act:

The operator started to winch a load uphill. Due to the weight of the load and the presence of stumps, he was not able to winch the load up to the skidder. So he backed up and drove out onto a bench and oriented the skidder along the contour. He did not lower the blade to the ground when he began winching. The door on one side of the skidder was missing. He again began winching the load uphill, at an angle to the skidder’s direction.


Evidence suggests that as he winched the load toward the skidder, the load may have hung up against or became wedged between stumps. The machine flipped over, rolled downhill, and ejected the operator.


The skidder operator was killed on impact.

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Always wear seatbelts when operating skidders and other ROPS/FOPS machines.

Ground the blade when winching a load, and align the skidder close to the same angle as the direction of the winching, especially on steep ground.

Make sure the load will not hang up on stumps or trees. Do not exceed the skidder’s load capacity when winching or transporting logs. Buck large trees into manageable pieces.

Maintain equipment to manufacturer’s specifications—keep doors on the skidders—they are there for the operator’s protection!

Fully train employees for unusual or especially hazardous conditions. Keep inexperienced operators under direct supervision until the operator’s skill and experience level have been determined to be acceptable.

Source: Forest Resources Association