Safety Alert: Firewood Cutter Breaks Leg

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On a fall day in the South, a landowner was using his pickup truck and a chain to pull residual tops from a harvesting operation up to a rough woods road where he would cut them into firewood.


The landowner was 76 years old. His previous accident history and firewood cutting experience are unknown. He was not wearing any personal protective equipment.


The individual was working alone. After he had pulled a tree top uphill and closer to the woods road, he got out, left the engine running, and walked down to unhook his chain. He thought he had put the pickup truck in park, but he must have actually shifted into neutral. He did not set the parking brake. His truck was approximately three-fourths loaded with firewood and was facing uphill.


As the landowner went to unhook his chain, he suddenly realized (too late) that the pickup truck was rolling backwards toward him. The pickup ran over him and continued about 30 yards further down the hill and eventually lodged in some debris.


The landowner sustained a compound fracture below the knee. He was able to crawl down to his truck and use his two-way radio to call his wife, who was about a mile away at home. After his wife had arrived, an industry forester happened to drive down the woods road to check on the harvesting operation on this tract. The forester discovered the injury, and he went to the logging crew members to get help. They assisted with the rescue effort.

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Always shift into park, shut off the engine, and engage the parking brake before walking behind a vehicle that is on a slope. In some instances, it is also advisable to chock the wheels.

Although this situation does not fall under OSHA logging regulations, it is risky for an individual operating a chain saw to work alone. If you must work alone, inform at least one other person of your whereabouts, and have a means of communication such as a cell phone for use in an emergency.

Chainsaw operators should wear the full complement of PPE, including head, eye, ear, leg, and foot protection.

This incident shows the value of forestry and logging personnel being trained in first aid and in-woods rescue techniques.

Source: Forest Resources Association