An Accident?


By Tim Ard


Forest Applications Training, Inc.


Is it an accident? I guess we should look at a definition to begin. What is an accident?

The American Pulpwood Association has given an accident prevention, domino formula, presentation for years to loggers and risk managers of all types. One of the most embedded statements from this presentation in my mind is that, "an accident is an unplanned event!" If this is true, then planning is truly the best thing we can do to prevent accidents (at least those with injury), from happening. I believe this is true! I have asked loggers across the nation (who told me of injuries they or a member of their crew have sustained), "did you plan the injury?" To date, they have all said, "NO!" I guess this gives a substantiated truth to the statement.

Statistics show that operators of chain saws in the logging industry rank high in accidents. They’re tops in numbers of accidents and can be in volume of dollars expended in repair of them. Considering the above paragraph, we should look at the planning process of chain saw operation. Information should be taken and experience referenced before going further. Safe and productive techniques are no accident! They are results of planning.

Step one

Make sure your chain saw is current. Professionals should update/upgrade their equipment to safe working standards. Saws today should be equipped with chainbrake, throttle interlock and saw chain stops. These items may be referenced in your owners manual or at your local Husqvarna chain saw dealer. When purchasing a saw and or accessories, make certain you are aware of appropriate saw size, chain types and proper maintenance to insure safe operation.

Step two

The least expensive insurance you can purchase for reducing the cost of chain saw related injury is that of PPE. Personal protective equipment is required by OSHA for the saw operator on a logging job and because of this we should wear and use it, but it can also be the most profit saving investment you can make. Looking at injury statistics; fractures sustained from falling objects, trips, falls, and lacerations rank high on the accident list. Hardhat’s, eye and ear protection, chain saw protective mittens, leg protection, boots with protection from the chain saw and good traction limiting slips and falls, is common sense… insurance at minimum to reduce the severity of an accident’s injury.

Step three

Make a plan on each cutting task. Taking time to make a task specific plan will possibly slow you down at first. However, time and again, either by preventing an accident from happening or by a more productive way of doing the task, that hesitation to make a plan increased production.

Whether felling or limbing and topping after felling, your position to and under hazards can be deadly. Look up to access the tree, its top, and down around it. Broken or dead limbs, vines, adjacent trees growing or dead, can all produce situations that can effect our safety and production. On the ground, the treetop or log may roll. Make certain your position, footing and terrain you must travel through upon your retreat are clear and easily passable.

Hung trees and struck by situations are formed by falling trees not going exactly as planned. The lean(s), side, forward, and back, not calculated and compensated for at the time of planning and executing the fall, will surprise even the best of saw operators. If a tree leans to a side it may brush or even hang in an adjacent tree if not compensated for with the hinge and notch. This can unmistakably ruin a production day. Saw operators on the ground that must bring in other equipment (skidder, etc.) to take back leaning trees, will sometimes increase chances of injury to both operators. The information taking process of establishing and calculating lean(s) is taken to lightly in the fallers training process.

Felling accidents investigated have many times found the dead or injured operator within a fifteen-foot radius of the stump. This highlights the need for the chain saw operator to retreat from the tree as soon as the tree moves. A two to three step retreat or escape really doesn't’t combat the stats. The sawyer must consider a much further retreat. That path should be in a 45 degree from the fall of the tree. This means not to the side and not directly behind, the operator should retreat to the rear of the fall in a 45 degrees path, fifteen feet or more. Notching and back cut techniques selected should offer the operator ample time to retreat from the moving tree. (It’s when the tree begins its decent that many limbs and other form of debris begins its fall. As other trees are brushed or angles upset, a resting broken limb falls striking the operator).

To steer the falling tree a directional notch and hinge should be placed on the desired direction face of the tree. The notch allows the hinge to work as it holds and guides the tree to the target as a hinge on a door guides it to the latch. Properly sized and placed, this notch and hinge can guide the tree to the desired location and away or passed adjacent trees or residual stands. This directional falling can greatly reduce the need to stay with or beside the tree to guide it by reducing holding wood. An important factor to the hinge working properly is a proper notch opening for the situation. If the notch is a thin fifteen degree pie, a forty-five degree, or an open face of seventy to ninety degrees, it determines the angle or altitude and attitude of the tree when its steering hinge breaks or releases. Important: If the face notch is less than seventy degrees open or has a by-pass cut (mistake cut) in the notch area, you must have a back cut which is higher than level of the notch. The thinner or smaller notch opening you have the quicker the fibers of the tree and or hinge is stressed. This can mean loss of control, quality of the log, and reduced safety for the operator. Not understanding the use of hinges in felling and topping has attributed to many logging accidents and injuries. Often injury can be attributed to poor felling direction or a roll or quick reaction on the ground taking place.

We can cover specific techniques, however, the planning and mechanics of fiber and the hinge are the basis for explaining situational concerns. Review and remember the highlighted planning techniques above: Hazards, lean, retreat, notch and hinge, specific plan.

A video is available discussing many techniques the professional saw user will find helpful. Contact the Forest Applications Training office. PO Box 429, Rome, Ga 30162. Phone 770-543-9862. You can also reach us through the internet at our website . ###