Feller Struck by Dead Locust Tree While Felling Adjacent Tree - North Carolina

NIOSH FACE Report 2015-04
April 12, 2018


On August 8, 2014, a 31-year-old tree feller died after he was struck by a dead tree. At the time of the incident, two fellers were working on a wood lot in separate cut blocks approximately 600 feet apart. The fatally injured feller had cut a poplar tree and retreated to the chosen escape path. However, before he could escape the area, he was struck by a dead locust tree that had been caught in the poplar branches. Shortly after the incident, the owner arrived on-site and tried to reach the fellers by radio. Only one feller responded. The second feller went to the cut block, found the feller under the tree and radioed the owner to call 911. Emergency medical services arrived on-site within 20 minutes to find the feller unresponsive.


Occupational injuries and fatalities are often the result of one or more contributing factors or key events in a larger sequence of events that ultimately result in the injury or fatality. NIOSH investigators identified the following unrecognized hazards as key contributing factors in this incident:

  • Snagged dead tree
  • Weather
  • Emergency plan


NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Conduct a site assessment and develop a site safety plan based on hazards identified before felling activities begin
  • Train fellers to evaluate the area around timber to be felled to identify potential hazards and take appropriate control measures.
  • Develop and implement a plan for inclement weather.
  • Develop, implement, and train on an emergency response plan.
  • Train employees on wilderness first responder and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Develop and implement a safety and communication plan for lone workers.


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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1982, NIOSH initiated the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program. FACE examines the circumstances of targeted causes of traumatic occupational fatalities so that safety professionals, researchers, employers, trainers, and workers can learn from these incidents. The primary goal of these investigations is for NIOSH to make recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. These NIOSH investigations are intended to reduce or prevent occupational deaths and are completely separate from the rulemaking, enforcement and inspection activities of any other federal or state agency. Under the FACE program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the deaths in order to provide a context for the agency’s recommendations. The NIOSH summary of these conditions and circumstances in its reports is not intended as a legal statement of facts. This summary, as well as the conclusions and recommendations made by NIOSH, should not be used for the purpose of litigation or the adjudication of any claim. For further information, visit the program website at www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/ or call toll free at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).

Page last reviewed: April 23, 2018