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Washington Logger Fatality — April, 1998


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State of Washington, Department of Labor and Industries seal Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention logo

Fatality Investigation Report: Tree Faller Struck by Tree

Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE)
Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

Report #52-2-99

Logger Killed when Struck by Top of Falling Tree, which was Felled by an Adjacent Cutter, in Washington State.

Investigation: #98WA07601
Release Date: April 30, 1999
(download PDF report, 18 pages, 360 kb)


SUMMARY

On April 10, 1998, a 45 year old "tree faller" died after being struck by a twenty foot tree section that had broken from a tree felled by a co-worker. The victim was working a strip of the logging site down slope from two other cutters. A co-worker (another tree faller) cutting in the adjacent area, felled a tree measuring approximately 115-125 feet in height. As the felled tree descended to the ground, it struck one or more standing trees and broke into several sections. The top section of the felled tree struck the victim as he was trying to escape. The local emergency medical rescue unit was summoned via radio and responded to the incident scene, but the victim died from the injuries sustained in the incident.

To prevent future similar occurrences, the Washington Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) Investigative team concluded that loggers should follow these guidelines:

  • All tree cutting operations should adhere to the principle that a distance of at least two tree lengths should separate adjacent occupied work areas.

  • A “pre-job safety plan” should be in place for the cutting site and the plan should be reviewed prior to each days' cutting.

  • Training and education in logging operations should be a continuing process for skills development and for the understanding of safe methods and practices in the logging industry.

  • A timely warning should be given prior to felling each tree.

  • The felling of a cut tree should be controlled by a proper under-cut and back-cut, leaving hinge wood of sufficient thickness to guide the tree during it’s fall.

  • A well-defined escape path should be planned so a quick retreat can be made to a safe area “out of harms way” from a falling tree.

  • The area surrounding partially-cut trees which are still standing, should be clearly identified (or marked if possible) to warn all persons of the potential for those trees to fall in an uncontrolled manner.

INTRODUCTION

On April 13, 1998, the Washington FACE Program was notified by CFOI* (Census of Fatal Injuries) of the death of a 45 year old logger on April 10th .

The Washington FACE Principal Investigator and the Field Investigator met with the regional WISHA** (Washington Industrial Safety & Health Administration) representative who was investigating the case. After reviewing the case with WISHA, the WA FACE team traveled with the WISHA representative to the incident site. The WISHA representative helped pinpoint the incident location, logging site detail, and defined the position of the loggers involved in this incident.

The logging site was on private forest land owned by a forest products company. The company contracts with local logging firms to harvest their forest lands on a regular basis. Trees are harvested according to a schedule defined in a forest management plan developed by the landowner. The practice of contracting logging operations has become more common in the U.S., as the large forest products companies are streamlining and down sizing due to the economies of the business.1

This incident involved a contract with a local logging contractor who had been in the logging business for many years and had performed logging for this landowner and other land owners throughout the region.

The victim in this fatality was a 45 year old male "logger". The deceased, at the time of the incident, was working as a tree faller in conjunction with two other tree fallers. The victim's co-workers will be noted in the body of this report, as "tree faller #1" and "tree faller #3". The victim will be noted as "tree faller #2". The team had been contracted to log (cut) a stand of trees located on private forest land. The team had been working this logging site for 30 days prior to the fatality.

It is unclear whether the deceased was an employee working for the logging contractor or whether he was a self-employed / independent contractor. It is clear however, that the logging contractor directly employed tree fallers #1 and #3.

The deceased had been in the logging profession for over 22 years and had considerable experience performing the varied types of jobs within the logging industry. Tree faller #3 (the victim's brother) also had over 20 years of experience, while tree faller #1 had the least amount of experience with only about 1.5 years in the logging business. Tree faller #1 was also a newcomer to the state.


<<< continue reading — Washington Logger Fatality,
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* CFOI is a BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) cooperative federal /state system to collect information on all fatal occupational injuries of public and private sector workers.

** The OSHA State Plan program in Washington State.

 


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