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$afety $aves - Jason Todhunter

SUBJECT: Logger Fatally Injured by Falling Limb SUMMARY

A 60-year-old male logger (the victim) was killed when a falling limb struck him on the head. He had been involved in the logging industry all of his life and had been working for a small logging business for six days when the fatal incident occurred. At about 9 a.m. on the day of the incident, the owner of the company went with the victim to where he would be felling trees. The victim was not wearing any personal protective equipment (PPE). They talked for a few minutes then the owner left on the bulldozer. When he returned 20-25 minutes later, he found the victim lying on the ground. No vital signs were detected. Although the incident was unwitnessed, it was apparent that he had been hit in the head by a falling limb. A broken-off branch lying nearby was about 4 inches in diameter and 4-5 feet long. The owner ran back to the truck about 3/4 mile from the scene to call 911 using the cellular phone. The police and emergency medical services were dispatched to the scene after receiving the call at 9:54 a.m. The coroner was contacted and pronounced the victim dead at the scene. In order to prevent similar instances from occurring, FACE investigators recommend that:

Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn at the logging site.

A hazard assessment of the logging site should be completed before beginning work to identify and control potential hazards.

Employers should develop and enforce a written safety program

I found this accident report on the internet; it occurred in Kentucky in 1998 but the mechanics of this accident scene are possible on every logging job in Montana. How many limbs and tops of trees do you see falling out of leave trees in a fresh clipped strip? How much stuff is flying around in the air around a de-limber or log loader? In the past several years we safety rangers have noted a growing problem in our industry especially mechanical loggers, and the lack of hardhat utilization by employees and owners when out of the machine. This is what we hear: “it’s in the pickup; it’s in the cab; it’s at home; there’s no overhead hazards here!”

OSHA rule: 1910.266(d)(1)(vi)

The employer shall provide, at no cost to the employee, and assure that each employee who works in an area where there is potential for head injury from falling or flying objects wears head protection meeting the requirements of subpart I of Part 1910.


Fines for not following this rule range from $500-$5000 dollars; more if there is an injury associated with the OSHA visit. We could argue forever where there is potential for falling or flying objects but OSHA will say and rightly so that any active logging job meets this threshold.


Log haulers need to be diligent as well. We still occasionally see them pulling wrappers at the mill without hardhats, wrapping up or tightening up without a hardhat. If a 5’ long 4” diameter limb can take the life of this lifelong logger what will an 18’ 5” dead lodgepole falling off the top of your load do to you? I still get a lump in my throat thinking about an accident I investigated several years ago where a log hauler was killed by logs falling off the load. This individual was not wearing a hardhat. We will never know if it would have made a difference or not but a hardhat does more than just absorb a blow. The rounded design pushes your body out of the way so your body doesn’t take the full force of the blow and it might push you far enough out of the way to where the log won’t crush you as well. Your chances of survival certainly are much higher with it on than off!


22 years ago, this logger who was possibly a dad, husband or grandpa was getting closer to his retirement. Maybe he was going to finally take the time to catch up on his honey-dos, or hunting and fishing. He had probably not worn PPE his entire life in the woods but this day was the day he should have while he was walking to the next tree. Chances are a hardhat would have saved him. Lets all learn from this decades old tragedy and make the decision put your longtime logger trademark hard hat on EVERY TIME you are out of the cab and on a logging job or at the sawmill. The one-time you don’t, or you observe your employee not wearing one and keep quiet, might be that day when it is needed most. $afety $aves



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