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Turning Sawhead Disk Cuts Operator’s Leg

Safety Alert

By Forest Resources Assn.
Date Posted: 8/1/2006


        On a clear, fall morning in the Southeast, a feller-buncher operator was disengaging and grounding his machine’s sawhead to check on a pinhole leak in one of the sawhead’s hydraulic hoses.

Personal Characteristics

        The 62-year-old feller-buncher operator had been employed in logging for 38 years, including 15 years of feller-buncher experience. He had no previous accident record, and he was wearing a hard hat and cut-resistant boots. He was considered fully trained for his job.

Unsafe Act or Condition

        The operator grounded the sawhead in a very shallow road ditch and dismounted the machine. Thinking there had been ample time for the sawhead disk to stop turning, he approached the front of the machine with his attention focused on the leaking hose.


        A split second before reaching the sawhead, the operator noticed the disk was still turning. He was too late: a sawtooth caught his right pant leg and cut-resistant boot, pulling his leg into the machine.


        The operator suffered deep lacerations to his lower right leg. A fellow employee heard his calls for help and responded immediately. After the emergency medical service had been contacted, an employee was sent to the main highway to direct the EMS to the job site. Due to the employee’s diabetic condition and high risk of infection, the decision was made later at the hospital to amputate his right foot.


        1.) Sawhead operators must ground the disk (into a stump, for example) to arrest its motion before they exit the cab. In this case, the logging company’s policy required that equipment be “shut down and placed in a zero energy state for areas on the equipment where work will be performed.”

        2.) Never allow anyone to walk in front of a sawhead while the disk is still turning.

        3.) Remember that logging injuries often occur when an employee is complacent or in a hurry.


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