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Freeman Reservoir tree felling fatality, 72-hour report & OSHA citation — June, 2009
Andrew Palmer Fatality, Dutch Creek Incident, — June, 2008
Vehicle Accident Involving Tree-Felling Operations
Big Creek Fire
Background of Incident:
On August 5, 2006, a snag was felled onto a moving U.S. Forest Service
vehicle during wildfire suppression efforts on the Big Creek fire. The
operator of the vehicle complained of some stiffness and neck pain. He
was examined by a doctor and X-rays were taken. The vehicle had substantial
damage to the hood and roof, and the windshield was shattered, “raining
glass” on the driver. The driver was the only occupant and there
was no damage to any other property.
The faller was a certified Class B Faller cutting a 20” snag. The
faller was cutting a snag on the uphill side of the road. Upon completion
of his face cut, he radioed the road guards on both ends of the road to
inform them that he was going to fall the tree onto the road. He called
out “falling tree,” and completed cutting the snag. He did
not know a vehicle was coming toward his cutting operation.
The driver had just finished assisting another faller approximately 250
feet down the road, got in his truck and was going to a turnaround a short
distance up the road (approximately 300 feet). He was going slowly up
the road when the tree fell on his truck. The driver did not hear the
falling tree radio call and was unaware that a sawyer was cutting the
tree down as he traveled north up the road. He had traveled less than
250 feet when the incident occurred.
Potential Causal Factors:
The sawyer was sawing without a spotter nearby and was unaware that
the vehicle was coming toward his falling operation.
The driver did not hear the “falling tree” radio communication
with the road guards or know that a tree was being cut as he was driving
up the road.
The driver was traveling below a large cut bank which could possibly
have hid his vehicle from the faller. Also the bank stopped the tree
from completely falling on the vehicle. Only a 3” top struck
The road guards were not aware a vehicle was moving up the road.
Before beginning work, carefully assess the amount of work needed and
the time to complete the work.
Before beginning operations, develop a plan. Discuss the plan and make
sure it is understood and reassessed throughout the operational period.
Close roads to all traffic with road guards; allow traffic through only
when an “all clear!” is received from ALL fallers.
Emphasize communication with both radio and shouts. Don’t always
rely on the radio - IF YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS, DO A FACE-TO-FACE COMMUNICATION!
When reviewing the area to be snagged do a thorough job – look
for catfaces and burned roots on all sides.