On a summer morning in the Southeastern U.S., a crew cab pickup truck transporting three logging company employees was traveling to the deck to begin their shift. Conditions were clear that day, and weather was not a contributing factor.
Unsafe Acts and Conditions
A track feller buncher operator was cutting alongside the haul road, fully aware that additional crew members would be arriving soon to start work.
The employees in the company crew cab had traveled about four miles through the woods on the haul road enroute to the deck. The truck stopped along the haul road before arriving at the deck to drop off the skidder driver close to his machine. The truck continued traveling to the deck where the loader and second skidder were located. Other crew members had arrived at the site about 45 minutes earlier and already had begun working.
The track feller buncher operator began cutting along the side of the haul road near the deck. The feller buncher began cutting a 20-inch gum tree that was about 80 feet tall. As the tree was being severed from the stump, the operator lost control of the tree, and it started to fall back toward the machine. Instinctively, the operator used the cutter arm to push the tree away from the cab and toward the haul road.
At the exact moment the operator was pushing the tree away from the feller buncher, the crew cab truck was arriving at the deck. The felled tree struck the crew cab and came to rest on top of the truck. The feller buncher operator alerted other crew members, and they assisted with removing the top of the tree from the cab.
The crew extracted both employees from the truck and transported them to the intersection of the haul road and state highway to meet emergency medical services personnel. The injured workers were transported to the local hospital, where both were treated and released later in the day. One was diagnosed with a cervical fracture and referred to a neurosurgeon for further evaluation.
Recommendations for Correction
- Always be aware of the location of other workers, especially while conducting felling operations.
- Properly assess the weight and balance of trees prior to felling to minimize accident risk.
Source: Forest Resources Association