Farm Laborer Pinned by Tree Branch Against His Tractor Seat, Michigan
Michigan Case Report: 17MI136
Report Date: 09/13/2019
In summer 2017, an 80-year-old male farm hand died when a tree branch from the downed tree being moved by his tractor’s loader bucket struck him (Photo 1). The decedent drove the Kubota MX5000 tractor equipped with a brush hog and a Kubota LA852 loader in the front to a 10-acre field to mow it; the now unused crop field was being maintained for future sale. He arrived at the site mid-morning, mowed for a while, ate lunch with a property owner adjacent to the property being mowed, and then resumed the task. The incident occurred near a tree line while he was mowing the perimeter of the property. A tree had broken near the base of the trunk and had fallen from the tree line into the field in the mowing path. The tree had several branches that formed a “Y”. The incident occurred while the decedent, seated in the tractor seat, attempted to use the loader as a bulldozer to move/push the tree to the side and out of the field. Per the police report, it appeared the decedent had made several attempts to move the tree; there were marks on the hydraulic arms of the loader as well as paint transfer to the tree consistent with the hydraulic arm dimensions. On the decedent’s last attempt, it appeared the tree “rolled” up and over the bucket and a branch struck and pinned him in the tractor seat.
- Improper tool selection – a loader bucket was used rather than a grapple, brush rake or root rake to clear the fallen tree
- Tree length, weight, and configuration when pushing/lifting tree with tractor loader bucket
- Hazard awareness regarding the hazards, limitations, or potentially dangerous conditions associated with using the tractor/loader bucket to move the tree
- Brush, stump and dead wood debris in area where the decedent was attempting to push the tree
MIFACE investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:
- Ensure employees use appropriate tractor attachments to perform needed work.
- Develop and implement a farm safety plan.
- Provide regular training which addresses the hazards of task complacency with their workforce.