Farmer Pinned by Tree Limb When Tree Shifted While Limbing/Bucking Tree, Michigan

Michigan Case Report: 18MI213
Report Date: 06/24/2020


In late winter 2018, a male farmer in his 80s died when a tree he was limbing and bucking with a chain saw shifted, pinning him under the tree’s trunk. The tree crown, smaller limbs and branches had been removed; only the larger limbs remained. The felled tree had a major branch off the trunk shaped like a “Y”. The tree was balancing on one of the “Y” branches and the stump/exposed tree root (flare). The decedent was working alone. He was using his chain saw to remove the larger limbs from one of the “Y” branches. During this activity, it appears the tree shifted and rolled. The tree trunk struck and pinned him against the ground. When he did not return home as planned, his wife called him on his cell phone. She looked for him, and when unsuccessful, called her son. Her son arrived at the incident site and, using a chain saw, cut away a section of tree lying on the decedent. Emergency response was summoned. He was declared dead at the scene.


  • Inadequate hazard assessment of the hazards posed by the felled tree
    • Forest floor soil characteristics react differently than field hard packed soils
    • Forest edge trees react differently than in-forest trees
  • Safe limbing and bucking work practices not followed
  • Working alone


  • When felling and limbing trees, recognize differences in soil characteristics between “forest” trees and “fence line” trees.
  • Use safe work practices when performing limbing or bucking activities with a chainsaw including performing a hazard assessment, standing uphill when possible, not working alone and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • When working alone, establish a check-in procedure with another individual to help assure prompt emergency assistance.
  • Do not remove a crushing weight from an individual prior to contacting emergency response and receiving their instructions.

Farmer Pinned by Tree Limb When Tree Shifted While Limbing/Bucking Tree, Michiganpdf icon [PDF 1,457 KB]

Page last reviewed: September 17, 2020