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Logger Killed by Falling Tree, Michigan

Michigan Case Report: 11MI005
Report Date: 6/6/2013


In the winter of 2011, a male logger in his 50s died when he was struck by a falling hardwood tree approximately 75 feet tall and 20 inches in diameter at its base. A branched section existed approximately 50 feet up the tree. The decedent and a coworker were hand felling a clump of three hardwood trees (trees with a common base) that could not be felled by mechanical means using the firm’s processor. The incident tree was the last tree of the clump to be felled. A coworker (Coworker 1) was nearby operating a skidder. The terrain was snow covered and the tops from other trees felled previously by mechanical means were present. The decedent’s coworker (Coworker 2) cut and completed the notch on the east side of the tree. Coworker 2 noted the locations of the skidder operator and the decedent before beginning the back cut. He noted that the decedent was standing behind him on the north side of the tree. He completed the back cut, intending for the tree to fall to the east. As the tree began to fall it twisted on the stump and began to fall to the south. Coworker 2 looked up and observed the decedent to the south and in the direction of the falling tree. Coworker 2 yelled to the decedent to “look out”, and the decedent began to run to get out of the way, but ran toward and into the path of the falling tree. Coworker 1 attempted to drive the skidder under the falling tree to keep it from striking the decedent. The decedent was located approximately 50 feet from the base of the tree when he was struck on his back and head by one of the branched sections as he dove toward a nearby tree top to get out of the way. The decedent was not wearing head protection. Coworker 2 used the decedent’s chainsaw to cut the tree away from him while the skidder operator used his cell phone to call for emergency response and notify the crew leader. Coworkers immediately began first aid while emergency response was en-route. The decedent was declared dead at the scene.


  • Working within two tree lengths of tree during felling operations
  • Improper tree assessment and felling techniques
  • Lack of supervisory authority to enforce safety policies
  • Possibility of wind speed as a contributing factor.
  • Failure to establish, clear, and maintain an escape route prior to felling trees


  • Employers should instruct each employee and enforce the safe work practice that no workers, with the exception of the tree feller, should be closer than twice the height of the tallest tree being cut.
  • Fellers should assess a tree’s condition prior to felling the tree and use proper felling techniques.
  • Workers on a logging site should wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Employers should develop a written company safety program which includes, but is not limited to, development of safe work procedures and worker training in hazard identification, avoidance and abatement. The employer should ensure the program is consistently implemented and enforced including methods for dealing with worker non-compliance.

Logger Killed by Falling Tree, Michigan [PDF 304 KB]