Safety Alert: Forester Dislocates Elbow Trying to Stop Fall

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A forester and his colleague were painting boundary lines in the Appalachians on a wet, cold, and foggy morning in the fall.


Personal Characteristics

The forester had nine years of experience in the industry, and he had experienced no accidents related to the job. The forester was aware that, besides driving, slips, trips, and falls can pose the highest risk of injury for anyone working in the forestry sector.

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Unsafe Act

The forester’s boots did not have suitable tread for the terrain, and he was not using a walking stick. An additional risk was that both of his hands were full, with a coffee cup in one hand and a can of spray paint in the other. The heavy rains from the night before made walking in the area very hazardous. Both foresters had fallen several times during their work that morning.



After leaving the county road, the forester followed the old paint to the top of a high ridge. Then he began to work down the next slope when the forester began to feel his feet getting tripped up. He stumbled downhill, gaining momentum like a ball of snow. His head was overtopped by his feet as he stumbled down the steep embankment, out of control.

Rather than tumble head-first, he elected to try to stop himself on a pole-sized tree. The sheer force of the forester, along with his momentum, dislocated his elbow immediately.



His elbow was dislocated, and he suffered torn and sprained ligaments and floating bone fragments in the tip of his elbow. A trip to an emergency room and X-rays revealed no broken bones. The elbow was reset and splinted. After four weeks in a splint and sling and an additional six weeks of physical therapy, the forester’s arm was back to 85 percent of its original movement. He was able to work light duty over the next four weeks and did not miss any work except the day of the injury.


Recommendations for Correction

  • Always wear proper and adequate footwear matched to the environment where you’re working.
  • Never walk through timber without a walking stick.
  • Always maintain three points of contact.
  • If ground conditions are hazardous, switch to another job task for that day.
  • Never ignore early signs of possible injury; failure to do so can cause a more serious injury.
  • Always tell someone where you’ll be working and give them GPS coordinates when possible.

Source: Forest Resources Association