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Changes in logging injury rates associated with use of feller-bunchers in West Virginia.

J Saf Res 2002 Dec; 33(4):463-471
It is well documented that logging is one of the most dangerous occupations and industries in which to work, and trees fellers are at greatest risk of injury. The objective of this study was to determine whether West Virginia (WV) logging companies experienced a reduction in injuries after beginning to use feller-bunchers (tree cutting machines, which replace some of the work done with a chainsaw) during harvesting operations. WV workers compensation claims and employment data from 1995 to 2000 were used to calculate injury rates. Injury trends in the rest of the WV logging industry, not using feller-bunchers, were also assessed. For 11 companies, the pre-feller-buncher injury claims rate was 19.4 per 100 workers and the post-feller-buncher rate was 5.2 per 100 workers. This was a significant difference, with an adjusted rate ratio of 2.8 (95% CI: 1.8-4.5) of pre to post claims. Struck by injuries also showed significant decline, with the pre-feller-buncher injury rate being 3.8 (95% CI: 1.8-8.2) times as great as post-feller-buncher rate. During the time of the study, the injury rate rose in the rest of the WV logging industry. The average cost of a workers compensation claim in the WV logging industry during the time of the study was approximately $10,400. As mechanization of logging tasks becomes more widespread, the WV logging industry as a whole may see substantial injury declines and a reduction in the total cost of injury claims. Struck by injuries, the most common and potentially fatal of logging injury types, appear to be particularly affected. However, logging operations in areas of very steep terrain where it is not possible to use these machines may need to rely on strategies other than feller-bunchers to reduce injuries.
Forestry-workers; Logging-workers; Accident-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Injury-prevention; Injuries; Statistical-analysis; Engineering-controls; Mechanical-properties; Equipment-design; Equipment-operators
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, Analysis and Field Evaluations Branch, 1095 Willowdale Road, MS-1181, Morgantown, WV 26505-2888
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Journal Article
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NIOSH Division
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Disease and Injury: Traumatic Injuries; Research Tools and Approaches: Intervention Effectiveness Research
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Journal of Safety Research