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Safety Alert: Skidder Backs Over Sawyer

Fatal accident in which the rear tire of a skidder backs over a sawyer, and he died at the job site.

By Staff
Date Posted: 11/1/2009


            A logging operation was harvesting timber in rolling terrain in the South on a hot, humid summer day. The tract contained a heavy understory of brush with predominantly hardwood pulpwood and various grades of hardwood logs.

            The feller-buncher cut and bunched the trees into small piles. The skidder dragged these piles to a small sorting area where the pulpwood and the logs were separated. Next, the sawyer limbed and topped each group of trees.

            When the sawyer finished with the group of logs, his helper measured and marked these trees for cutting. While the helper was busy measuring, the sawyer would limb and top pulpwood trees.

            Later the sawyer returned to cut the marked trees into logs. Finally, the skidder dragged the logs and the pulpwood up to the loading deck.


Personal Characteristics:

            The sawyer was 55 years old and had worked 14 years with the company as a sawyer. He was considered trained and wore a hard hat, saw chaps, safety glasses, and protective boots. The other crew members were experienced and had been with the company at least ten years.


Unsafe Act and Condition:

            At about 7:30 AM, the skidder had dragged several large, brushy hardwoods to the edge of the sorting area to be limbed and topped. On the skidder’s return trip to the sorting area, he came up to one of the large tops to push it out of the way.

            Not seeing the sawyer, he proceeded to push the large top off to the side. Meanwhile, the sawyer, wearing dark colored clothes, was bent over delimbing in the top of another tree, apparently unaware of the skidder’s presence.



            As the skidder started to back up and turn around, the treetop the sawyer was working on started to move. The sawyer attempted to escape but fell.

            As the skidder continued to back up, the sawyer’s helper came over and flagged the skidder operator to stop.



            The helper found the sawyer lying on the ground. The rear skidder tire had backed over the sawyer, and he died at the job site.



            To help prevent these types of accidents and fatalities, be sure that all workers on the ground:

            a) wear clean, light-colored hard hats on the job;

            b) wear highly reflective safety vests at all times;

            c) regularly monitor the movement of the skidder, feller-buncher, etc.;

            d) strive to maximize their work in the open areas;

            e) take extra precautions when working in densely wooded areas;

            f)  be constantly aware of each employee’s location.

            (Source: Forest Resources Assn.)


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