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Timber cutter dies after being pinned by the tree he was felling in West Virginia.

West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 01WV034, 2001 Oct; :1-6
On July 30, 2001, a 47-year-old male tree feller (the victim) died of injuries sustained when he was pinned to the ground by the tree he was felling. The victim was felling trees on terrain with a 40% slope. He was in the process of felling a poplar, which was approximately 20 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) and 100 feet tall. It was located 8 feet down hill from a large and lengthy pile of scrap timber and brush which obstructed his escape path. He made a conventional face notch which measured 50 degrees and whose length was 76% of the tree's diameter. The notch was oriented to direct the tree approximately 30-40 degrees to the right of directly down hill. The chosen fall path was partially obstructed by the top of a 60 foot tall leaning walnut tree with a 18" DBH and whose base was measured to be 37 feet from the tree being felled. After making the face notch the victim began to make a bore cut but jammed the saw while doing so. Unable to remove the saw, he disassembled the saw leaving the bar and chain imbedded. He asked a dozer operator who was working with him to bring over another saw. Continuing with his bore cut he left two small dog eared hinges. After making his final cut, the victim retreated approximately 6 feet along the obstructed escape path. As the falling tree contacted the walnut, it cantilevered into the air and swung towards the victim, striking and pinning him to the ground. Witnessing the incident, the dozer operator responded by starting to cut the tree off of the victim but decided to summon help instead. He drove his pick-up truck approximately two miles to the nearest house. He called 911and asked the homeowner to wait for the ambulance. A volunteer fireman heard the call over his radio and responded to the site before EMS arrived. Approximately 20 minutes passed from the time the incident took place until the fireman and the dozer operator reached the victim. The fireman checked for vital signs and finding none, informed the dozer operator that the victim was dead. Shortly thereafter the EMS and deputy sheriff arrived. The victim was transported to the nearest medical facility where he was pronounced dead. The WV FACE Investigator concluded that, to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences, employers should: 1. Ensure that tree fellers prepare an escape path and move a safe distance from the base of the tree. 2. Ensure that tree fellers identify or clear an unobstructed fall path and landing zone prior to felling. 3. Develop, implement, and enforce a company policy which prohibits the felling of timber when the development and use of an escape path and clear fall path is not feasible. 4. Ensure that tree fellers utilize proper directional felling techniques.
Region-3; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Forestry; Forestry-workers; Lumber-industry; Lumber-industry-workers; Lumberjacks
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
FACE-01WV034; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-312914
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division