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Cutter Struck, Killed When Vines Pull Dead Limb

Cutter Struck, Killed When Vines Pull Dead Limb

By Staff
Date Posted: 7/1/2005


      A timber cutter was working alone, cutting and skidding on a summer day in the Appalachians. He was in the process of felling a 100-foot-tall cherry tree. 

Personal Characteristics

      The 43-year-old timber cutter was working for a company that had been in the timber harvesting business for over 10 years. The timber cutter had five years of logging experience.  He had completed his state’s logger training and education program, which had included safety training. He was not wearing any personal protective equipment on this day.

Unsafe Acts and Conditions

      After completing a face notch on the cherry tree, evidence suggests that the timber cutter walked about 34 feet downhill to fell a hickory tree that would have obstructed the fall path of the cherry tree. Grape vines entangled the top of the hickory with the top of the cherry tree.


      As the hickory fell, the timber cutter walked back uphill toward the cherry tree.  As he did, grape vines which connected both trees pulled a dead limb down from the cherry tree, striking the timber cutter on the top of his head.


      The timber cutter’s son, who was waiting at the landing for a log truck to arrive, eventually realized that the chain saw had been idling for an abnormally long period of time after he heard the hickory fall. He walked to the cutting site and found his father, who had been severely injured. He went to a house in the area to call 911. The timber cutter died at the scene.


      • Employers should ensure that tree fellers properly evaluate trees in the area immediately prior to felling so that potential hazards, such as dead limbs and vine-entangled trees and limbs, can be identified and appropriate control measures implemented.  Danger trees should be removed by mechanical means or the area should be bypassed.

      • Employers should ensure that tree fellers prepare an escape path and move diagonally in a safe direction away from the base of the tree as it falls. If the cutter had retreated at an oblique angle away from the expected fall line instead of walking directly uphill, he might have avoided being struck.

      • Employers should ensure that tree fellers wear all required personal protective equipment, including a hardhat.

(Source: Forest Resources Association)


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