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Hard Hat Protects Logger from Falling Limb

Safety Alert

By Forest Resources Assn.
Date Posted: 11/1/2006


        A Timber cutter was working alone on an early fall day in the Appalachians. He was working on the last tree that he planned to cut that day. It was a large red oak, and he had cut all around it, leaving it for last.

Personal Characteristics

        The 35-year-old timber cutter had been working for his family-owned logging company for 18 years — 13 as a skidder operator and five as a timber cutter. He had completed a logger safety training program and taken additional continuing education. He was wearing personal protective equipment and was carrying a two-way radio.

Unsafe Act or Condition

        The timber cutter failed to notice a dead limb in the tree he was cutting. He was cutting timber in an area by himself.


        As the large red oak began to fall, the dead limb fell out, and it struck the timber cutter on his hard hat.


        The dead limb crushed his hard hat. The timber cutter later said that “everything went black” at that point, but he was able to call for help on the two-way radio. His father and brothers rushed to him and took him to a nearby hospital. He had suffered a fractured skull and a fractured vertebra. He received 11 metal plates and 22 screws in his head during surgery. He was off work for six months then was able to return to work.


        • Timber cutters should look for hanging or dead limbs and other overhead dangers before felling trees. In some cases a skidder can be used to knock the tree over when just a little of the back cut is still uncut, thereby reducing exposure to attached dead limbs.

        • Timber cutters should prepare and use an escape path, moving diagonally away from the tree’s direction of fall and well away from the strike zone.

        • Use an open-faced notch and bore cut when feasible to allow the cutter to move away as soon as the back strap of holding wood is cut.

        • Never work alone. If possible, have another person within sight of the timber cutter but not close enough to be in danger.

        • The timber cutter’s hard hat obviously saved his life.

        • The two-way radio was very useful in this incident — again, possibly a life-saver.


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