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Case studies - Fatalities

Terms and practises used in forestry and arboriculture

  • A ‘sink cut’ is a triangular cut made near to the base of the trunk in the side of the tree that the tree is intended to fall. It should be made at an angle of approximately 45 degrees.
  • A ‘felling cut’ is the horizontal cut made into the rear of the tree, just above and towards the sink cut. The felling cut should stop before it meets the sink cut to create a hinge.
  • The falling action of the tree is controlled because the portion of the tree that has not been cut through creates what is called a ‘hinge’. This allows the felling direction and the rate of the fall to be controlled.
  • ‘Wedges’ are one of the tools used by forestry workers and the use of them to free a jammed chainsaw is not uncommon.
  • A ‘bench’ is the term used for the felling one tree into a horizontal position on the ground so that the next tree can be felled to land on top of it. The technique is used to make the task of snedding easier.
  • ‘Snedding’ refers to the removal of branches from the trunk of a felled tree. This is carried out after a tree has been felled and is carried out with a chainsaw.
  • The ‘danger zone’ is an area to the front and rear of a tree, where the tree is most likely to fall either during or after the sink and felling cuts have been made. Appendix 1 (AFAG302 – Basic chainsaw felling and manual takedown) illustrates this at Figure 1.

Working with chainsaws

A 28-year-old self-employed tree surgeon was killed while felling a tree at a private dwelling

The man had climbed into the tree using an extended ladder and was carrying a chainsaw to cut branches. Shortly after the man started work, his father heard a shout and discovered his son bleeding from a cut to his neck. He died from a deep chainsaw laceration to the neck.

Working at height with a chainsaw is extremely high ri;sk and those doing this type of work should be fully trained and competent to do the job. The equipment used to work off ground should be suitable for this use.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 54-year-old self-employed contractor died while using a chainsaw to fell a tree

The contractor was trying to fell a tree by using a telescopic handler and a homemade grab attachment to hold the tree and prevent it from falling towards neighbouring property. As the tree moved, it fell out of the grab towards the chain saw operator. He died from injuries caused by both being struck by his chainsaw and the falling tree.

Directional felling of trees is highly skilled work and those carrying out the work must be fully trained and be competent to carry out the job. Telescopic handlers and home-made grabs are not suitable for this work.

A 50-year-old man cut his arm and face with a chainsaw whilst cutting branches

Contracted by a domestic householder to top and trim a tree, he climbed into the tree and injured himself with a top handled chainsaw whilst cutting a branch. He was untrained, using unsuitable equipment and free climbing in the tree, cutting as he went. No one was available or trained to get him down or to effect an aerial rescue. He was eventually rescued from the tree by the fire brigade but subsequently died in hospital from his injuries.

Arboriculture is highly skilled work and those carrying out the work must be fully trained and be competent to carry out the job.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 28 year old self-employed tree surgeon was found dead in a tree with severe laceration to his neck.

He was in the process of pruning a multi-stemmed willow tree in preparation for felling it. There are no eye witnesses but it is assumed that the chainsaw kicked back causing a severe laceration to his neck. He died from his injuries almost instantly.

Working at height with a chainsaw is extremely high risk and those doing this type of work should be fully trained and competent to do the job. The equipment used to work off ground should be suitable for this use.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 21 year old self employed contractor died when his neck was struck by his chainsaw.

He was carrying out tree work from a rope and harness using a top handled chainsaw. There were no witnesses. The chainsaw struck his neck lacerating the main artery.

Chainsaws are potentially dangerous machines which can cause major injury if used by untrained people. Anyone who uses a chainsaw at work should have received adequate training and be competent in using a chainsaw for that type of work.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 27 year old self-employed tree surgeon was killed by his chainsaw.

He was reducing a tree when he somehow made contact with his chainsaw. There were no witnesses but the groundsman noticed blood coming from the surgeon’s neck and with the help of the other climber rescued him out of the tree. He was found unconscious and died from severe neck injuries. 

Chainsaws are potentially dangerous machines which can cause major injury if used by untrained people. Anyone who uses a chainsaw at work should have received adequate training and be competent in using a chainsaw for that type of work.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

Falling objects including being struck by a tree

A 67-year old landowner was struck by a tree branch

A 67-year old landowner was struck by a tree branch. He had been observing and directing the felling of a large tree, by a contractor and had been walking within the felling area. As the tree fell it brought down a nearby tree branch which landed on top of him. He later died in hospital.

No person should be allowed to enter the danger zone during a tree felling operation.

How to prevent this type of accident:

Agree a safe method of operation to ensure that a safe working distance can be maintained and that there are no other persons within two tree lengths of the tree being felled. Never work or walk within the ‘danger zone’ in the felling direction of a tree that is liable to fall unexpectedly.

Find out more:

A 43-year old estate worker was struck by a tree branch.

A 43-year old estate worker was struck by a tree branch. He was a qualified and experienced forester felling a diseased elm tree with a chainsaw in a remote woodland gulley. As the tree fell in the planned direction, a dead branch dropped and struck him on the head. The branch may have either fallen out of the felled tree or an adjacent tree that it was entangled with. Despite wearing an appropriate helmet, he died from head injuries.

How to prevent this type of accident:

Be very thorough in your assessment of the tree being felled. Look out for dead wood, insecure branches and any signs of decay both in the tree to be felled, and in adjacent crowns. Be constantly aware of likely danger, especially when the tree begins to fall.

After you have assessed the tree but still remain uncertain about its condition (or the condition of adjacent trees that could be affected) be prepared to leave the tree unfelled or change your felling method.

Find out more:

A 29-year old self-employed firewood supplier was crushed by a falling tree

A 29-year old self-employed firewood supplier was crushed by a falling tree. He had been asked to take down a number of mature hardwood trees on a farm and was being assisted by the farmer. A large beech tree was next to a road so a tractor, operated by the farmer, was being used to help direct the tree away from the road. Tension had being applied to the tree by a strop and rope attached to the tractor. It appears that the contractor had difficulties in making the felling cut and had failed to create a sufficient hinge to help control the tree as it fell.  Before the felling cut was complete the tree started to go over but, despite the tension being applied by the tractor, it turned and fell back towards the road. The tree landed on top of the contractor as he tried to get clear, causing severe crush injuries to his chest, abdomen and spine.

How to prevent this type of accident:

Directional felling of large trees is highly skilled work and those carrying out the work must have the required level of training and experience to ensure that they are competent to do the job safely. It involves competent people using the correct equipment and felling techniques.

If you use a contractor to carry out tree work on your behalf then you need to satisfy yourself that the contractor you choose can do the job safely. This means making enquiries to assure yourself that the contractor has the right combination of skills, experience and knowledge. The degree of competence and, therefore, the extent of your enquiries will be determined by the level of risks and the complexity of the job.

Find out more:

A 37-year-old forester was struck on the head by a falling tree

A man was felling a tree in which another tree was hung up. The dead tree slid down the trunk of the tree being felled crushing him. He died from head injuries.

Hung-up trees introduce a much greater level of risk to any felling operation. Trees should not be felled until any associated hung-up trees are dealt with.

A 63-year-old man died when a large tree branch hit his head

The man was working on a tree that had been felled onto a downward slope. He was using his chainsaw to remove branches from the tree while standing on the downward slope side. As the branches were removed the trunk rolled and a large branch struck him on the head.

This accident could have been avoided by identifying the risks associated with working on slopes with a chainsaw and applying some common sense safety measures – such as working from the uphill side of the stem.

A 48-year-old man was found trapped beneath a felled tree

An assistant warden at a reserve was leading a party of volunteers felling an ash tree overhanging a farmer’s field. The tree it split, striking him on the back of his neck and side. He suffered fractures to ankle, collarbone and rib but died later from a pulmonary embolism.

Some species of trees, such as Ash, are more liable to split when being felled using conventional felling cuts – particularly if these trees are overhanging. The risk of splitting can be minimized by the use of advanced felling cuts. Those carrying out this type of work should be properly trained and competent in these techniques.

An 85-year-old member of the public was crushed by a falling tree being felled

He and members of his family were cutting down a dead tree to recover firewood when the tree struck him causing severe head injuries.

Tree work is extremely dangerous and should only be carried out by fully trained and competent operators.

A 22-year-old forestry worker was hit by a falling tree during a winching operation

The investigation established that the worker had prepared two trees for winching. As the trees were winched, one or both trees being extracted was uprooted with such force that it pulled the anchor tree over onto the employee.

The deceased should have been in a safe working position whilst carrying out the winching operation.

A 25-year-old self-employed tree surgeon died after being struck by a branch

He was cutting a branch when his saw became trapped, pulling him downwards as the branch fell. The branch rebounded and hit him as he fell. It is thought that the anchor point gave way as the branch pulled the tree surgeon and chainsaw downwards.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 61-year-old employee was felling a tree in the back garden of a domestic residential property when the tree fell and crushed him.

There was little clearance between the tree and a fence at bottom of the garden and his colleague was unable to control the direction of the fall. After trimming off side branches he made a cut at the front of the tree and a further felling cut at the back, but in doing so, misjudged the cut and left an uneven hinge. The tree fell unexpectedly sideways and because of the absence of an adequate escape route, fell on top of him, causing fatal crushing injuries.

A 31-year-old employee was struck by a tree during a winching operation

The anchor tree was uprooted during a winching operation. The log being hauled may have caught on a stump increasing the strain on the pulley. The tree fell onto the winch vehicle and its tip struck the chokerman on head.

A 59-year-old, self-employed forestry worker was found late in the evening with a tree trunk on top of his body and legs

He was working alone in strong gusting winds. There were no witnesses to the accident.

Where reasonably practicable, chainsaw operators should not work alone. When lone working is unavoidable, systems should be in place to regularly monitor the safety of the worker and to ensure adequate procedures are in place in the event of an emergency.

A 58-year-old employee was found trapped between two trees.

Trees were being felled as part of a thinning operation in a small wood. Two felled trees were still hung up on standing trees. It appears that the last tree felled had hung up across another hung up tree and then fallen directly onto the deceased as he made his way through the wood. There was no obvious reason as to why he had walked directly into the danger zone.

Workers should not enter the danger zone during felling operations.

A 42-year-old self-employed man was killed when he was struck by a falling tree on a steep hillside

It appears that he had felled a tree that became hung up and then attempted to take down the tree in the direction it was hung. The tree worked itself loose knocking him over and down the slope as it fell.

Clearance of windblown and hung up trees is high risk work and those carrying out this type of operation should be fully trained and competent to carry out this type of work.

A 64-year-old employee was trapped under a section of tree that had fallen on him

He had been attempting to dislodge windblown branches in a wood on the farming estate in which he worked part-time. He was using a chainsaw to cut some branches, but another employee had seen him return to the yard to collect a rope and bow saw, stating that he needed the rope to rock the tree to dislodge a branch. He was later found underneath a large section of tree.

Clearance of windblown and hung up trees is high risk work and those carrying out this type of operation should be fully trained and competent to carry out this type of work.

A 33-year-old employee suffered head injuries when struck by a tree trunk which was being dropped to the ground

He was helping fell some trees at a domestic property when it appears he entered the danger area as a section of the trunk was being dropped. His employer became aware of the accident when he saw the employee sitting on the ground rubbing his head. He died later from his injuries.

Workers should not enter the danger zone during felling operations. For guidance on Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 33-year-old man suffered a broken neck when struck by the trunk of a tree

He was working with three others, clearing a small area of woodland that had been purchased as part of a housing development. There were no witnesses to the accident but it appears that he had felled an oak tree and a large lateral branch had prevented it from completely falling to the ground. It appears that he cut a section of the supporting branch to assist the fall and then went into the danger zone to sever the hinge. This released the tension that had built up on the weakened hinge and the trunk struck him on the side of the head. He was found with the trunk lying on top of him, his neck had been broken.

Clearance of windblown and hung up trees is high risk work and those carrying out this type of operation should be fully trained and competent to carry out this type of work.

31 year old self employed person was hit on the head and became trapped underneath a large branch whilst felling a tree.

He had attached his lifeline to another bough, which was later found to be rotten. As the bough that was cut fell, it brought down the rotten bough to which he was attached. His lifeline came down and he was trapped and killed.

Tree work is extremely dangerous and should only be carried out by fully trained and competent operators. This accident could have been avoided by identifying the risks associated with working with associated trees/tree branches.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 59 year–old, self-employed arborist was killed when a tree sprung back and struck him.

He was felling a mature oak - with a bough on the right hand side - into open space and was standing in the safe zone wearing full personal protective equipment, including a safety helmet. As the tree fell, the bough hit a nearby tree and broke off, before springing back and striking him.

A 39 year-old, self-employed chainsaw operator was killed when he was struck by a tree top when felling a 25 metre Sitka Spruce.

He was felling a tree when the top section of an adjacent tree broke on the way down. The tree landed on the chainsaw operators back causing him to be fatally injured. The operator was fully trained and had relevant certification for the type of work he was doing.

A 64 year-old self-employed contractor died after being struck on the back of the neck by a tree branch

He was contracted to remove two Ash trees, close to a building. Working with another qualified tree surgeon he attached a rope to the tree and to a tractor. The plan was to fell the tree using the rope to control the direction of fall. He made two cuts at the base of the tree, and signalled for the tractor driver to move forward which he did. The driver noticed contractor lying on ground. It is believed he was struck by an unseen branch, hung up between the two trees.

Hung-up trees introduce a much greater level of risk to any felling operation.  

A 39 year-old self-employed contractor was found dead beneath a felled tree.

He had been contracted to clear a field and remove some clumps of hawthorn. It appears that he had felled several large bushes with single cuts using a chainsaw. There were no witnesses but he was discovered face down pinned beneath a tree trunk. He died from his injuries.

Tree work is extremely dangerous and should only be carried out by fully trained and competent operators.

A 59 year old arboricultural contractor was struck by a falling tree.

He and his colleague were felling a tree, which then struck another tree causing it to uproot and strike his head.

The contractor should have been in a safe working position whilst carrying out the operation.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 59 year old forestry worker was crushed by a falling tree.

He was felling a tree for a farmer, when a hung up tree that he had previously part-felled, fell and crushed him. He died from multiple injuries.

Hung-up trees introduce a much greater level of risk to any felling operation. Trees should not be felled until any associated hung-up trees are dealt with.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 49 year old employee was struck by a falling tree.

He was felling the tree in a forest using a tractor powered winch. As the tree came down it caught on other trees that had been uprooted resulting in the tree falling in the direction of the worker. He was crushed under the tree and died from multiple injuries.

Clearance of windblown and hung up trees is high risk work and those carrying out this type of operation should be fully trained and competent to carry out this type of work.

An 18-year-old employee was struck on the head by a tree felled by another worker

Deceased was a trained tree surgeon assisting in the felling of trees along the gallop at a stud farm. The plan was to widen the gallops through the woods to help improve visibility for riders training and exercising their horses. A number of trees and overhanging branches had been felled and were then fed into the chipper by two of the workers whilst the other tree surgeon began to fell a tree away from where his colleagues were standing.

After finishing a short break and conversation the worker decided to walk down a track into the path of a tree, unaware that it was being felled by his colleague.

As he walked into the felling zone, the tree came down and struck him on the head.

He was not wearing his helmet and both colleagues had tried to shout out to warn him of the danger. An attempt was also made to push the falling tree off course so that it would miss the worker.

Workers should not enter the danger zone during felling operations

A safe method of operation must be agreed to ensure that a safe working distance can be maintained between workers (at least two tree lengths) and between workers and machines.

A 39-year-old self-employed contractor was struck by a tree branch

The deceased was felling a rotten tree from the ground while his colleague was directing the fall using a rope. As the tree fell, a branch struck the ground and swung back striking him in the face.

It appears that he had been standing away from the tree but the tree twisted ‘a little bit’ as it fell causing one of the branches to hit the ground before the trunk. As the branch impacted with the ground it snapped off from the trunk and swung back towards the tree surgeon, hitting him on the head and face causing multiple fractures. He later died in hospital.

Workers should be properly trained and competent

Directional felling of trees is highly skilled work and those carrying out the work must be fully trained and competent to carry out the job.

A 67-year-old self-employed forester was crushed by a falling tree

The deceased was felling a tree in woodland using a chainsaw and had made a sink cut so that the tree would fall in a direction away from a burn. However, while making the cut the tree leaned backwards and jammed his chainsaw. He and his son inserted wedges into the ‘cut’ to free the chainsaw and left the tree free-standing.

There were no felling aids or tools available (such as a breaker bar) which could be used to lever the tree over.

He then decided to fell another nearby tree and had intended to fell this tree so that when the tree that he had left standing finally fell, it would land on top of a felled tree. This would create a ‘bench’ effect.

As he removed branches with his chainsaw on the felled tree (in the path of where he had intended the hung up tree to fall and within the ‘danger zone’), a sudden gust of wind brought down the partially felled tree, striking him on the back and pinning him to the ground, killing him instantly.

Once any felling cut has been started on a tree, the tree must not be left standing

Chainsaw operators should not stand within the ‘danger zone’ and there should be no other persons within two tree lengths of the tree being felled. Never work within the ‘danger zone’ in the felling direction of a tree that is liable to fall unexpectedly.

Hung-up trees introduce a much greater level of risk to any felling operation. Trees should not be felled until any associated hung-up trees are dealt with.

Use felling aids such as a ‘breaker bar’ to lever the tree over rather than to leave it free-standing.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

Lone working

A 68-year old self-employed (experienced and qualified) forester was working alone when it is thought that he fell and died from serious head injuries

A 68-year old self-employed (experienced and qualified) forester was working alone when it is thought that he fell and died from serious head injuries. There were no witnesses. He had been subcontracted to assist in the felling of standing hardwood including the tidying up and stacking of timber for removal. The site was tidy and well organised and it is assumed that he slipped, tripped, stumbled or passed-out falling onto a tree stump, which caused his injuries. He was later discovered by the forestry works manager who had been contacted by a family member concerned about his whereabouts.

How to prevent this type of accident

Eliminating the risk from slips and trips in forestry is not possible but does not mean that you can’t do things to reduce the chances of an accident happening.  You should keep your work area as clear as practicable, particularly when working with chainsaws or other potentially dangerous equipment, wear the right type of footwear replacing it when worn, and pay careful attention to where you’re walking, particularly in difficult terrain. These precautions are just a few examples of the small measures that can be taken to significantly reduce the chance of serious injury.

Many people working in the forestry industry spend part or all of their day working alone, or working at some distance from others. If you employ people who work alone then you should have reliable procedures for ensuring that you know where they are, what they are doing and that you can keep in touch with them. Your procedures should not rely on assumptions, e.g. you should not assume that someone working alone in a forest has left it at the end of the day, you should have an arrangement to confirm that they have.

Find out more:

INDG73: Working alone - Health and safety guidance on the risks of lone working

Working at height

A 26-year-old man was pulled out of a tree when his climbing strop broke

It seems the climbing rope became entangled and took the weight of the falling tree. He had climbed up the section to be felled to attach a ‘pulling rope’ before descending to the point at which he intended to cut though the last section of the tree. Whilst felling a large vertical timber section (with pulling rope assistance from work colleagues on the ground), it fell awkwardly dragging him from the tree, causing fatal injuries.

A 59-year-old self-employed arborist was killed when he fell from a mobile elevating work platform

(MEWP) mounted on a vehicle, whilst pruning tree branches. At the time of the accident the MEWP had not been thoroughly inspected or maintained. In addition there was evidence that a substantial quantity of soil and saw dust had accumulated in the carrier, possibly sufficient to exceed the safe working load. The arborist was not wearing an appropriate work restraint harness and lanyard. Overloading and lack of maintenance of the MEWP may have caused it to fail causing him to fall sustaining fatal injuries.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 51-year-old self-employed farmer sustained fatal head and chest injuries when he fell from a bucket attached to a telehandler

The telehandler was being driven by his son. The man was felling a tree, which was supported by a tractor using chains. The tree fell backwards and he fell from the bucket as the telehandler overturned.

This was an unacceptable and high-risk use of a telehandler as a working platform. For guidance on Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 57-year-old, self-employed arborist died when he fell from a tree he was reducing for a private householder

He had pruned the sprouted growth and was about to reduce the height of the trunk. He stepped from the ladder on to the tree but lost his balance and fell headfirst to the paving below. He was using neither a harness nor other personal protective equipment.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 28-year-old self-employed person was killed when he became trapped up a tree that had caught fire

He was dismantling two trees in a domestic garden and had started a fire at the base of one of the trees to burn the branches. It appears that a tree branch that he had sawn off had dropped into the fire, causing hot embers to fly up into the air and ignite some of the lower branches. The two trees caught fire before he could get down. His body was found on the ground.

Fires should not be set underneath a tree in which an operator is working.

A 56-year-old self-employed arborist died when he fell from a ladder leaning against a tree

He had placed the ladder against another tree approximately 2.5 metres from the tree to be felled. It appears he was attempting to attach a rope to the dead tree’s branch in order to control the direction it would fall after it had been cut. Ladders were still in place against the tree after the accident it is unclear how he fell.

A 44 year old self employed arborist died when he fell from a tree.

He was thinning branches off an ash tree using a chainsaw and ladder and was not connected to a climbing rope. He fell to the ground below and died from multiple injuries.

Working at height with a chainsaw is extremely high risk and those doing this type of work should be fully trained and competent to do the job. The equipment used to work off ground should be suitable for this use. Carefully assess the tree to decide the safest and most effective method of thinning, and identify the danger areas around the tree.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 45 year old self-employed tree surgeon died when a tree branch that his climbing rope had been attached to fell to the ground.

He had been working with a colleague dismantling trees in a garden at the rear of a house. As he was lowering a section of timber, the branch securing his climbing rope tore away from the trunk causing the branch, the lowering rope, the climbing rope and the tree surgeon to fall to the ground. He died from injuries sustained in the fall.

In the tree, where possible, the system should be securely attached to two load-bearing anchor points. Each anchor point should be strong enough to support the climber, work equipment and any foreseeable loading.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 48 year old employee fell from a tree.

He was working on the tree as part of a team of tree surgeons and had been removing tree branches. It appears that the branch he had used as his rope anchor point gave way causing him to fall to the ground below.

In the tree, where possible, the system should be securely attached to two load-bearing anchor points. Each anchor point should be strong enough to support the climber, work equipment and any foreseeable loading.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

Vehicles at work

A 60-year-old self-employed man died when a tractor he was using during tree clearance work, overturned down a bank, trapping him underneath

A new ride for shooting was being created in a wooded quarry. The tractor was not fitted with either rollover protection or a seat restraint, even though it was being used in an area where there was a high risk of overturning.

Vehicles used in treework should be suitable for the environment and terrain in which they are used and should provide the appropriate level of operator protection.

A 60 year old forestry worker was trapped underneath an overturned tractor.

He was felling a tree using a tractor fitted with a loader arm to control the direction of the fall (to prevent the tree from falling onto nearby property).  The tractor was being used to support and then push over the tree. As the felling cut was completed, the tree spun around and became wedged on the loaders arm, causing the tractor to overturn. He was crushed under the wheel and the cab.

Directional felling of trees is highly skilled work and those carrying out the work must be fully trained and be competent to carry out the job. Telescopic handlers and home-made grabs are not suitable for this work.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

A 58 year old self-employed timber merchant was run over by a forestry forwarder.

There were no witnesses and it is assumed that he either dismounted the moving vehicle and was then run over or the vehicle rolled down the hill and ran him over. He was discovered on a forestry path way. The vehicle was on its roof on an embankment below the forest track. He died from multiple crush injuries.

There have been many serious incidents involving vehicles at the site of tree work. Forestry managers need to assess and control the risks of being hit by vehicles on site, or falling from the cab of a vehicle. You can find more detailed guidance in workplace transport in HSE's website Vehicles at work

A 59-year-old employee was run over by a forestry forwarder

The deceased and his colleagues were attempting to re-start a forwarder which had developed a mechanical fault while on a step slope. After carrying out a repair, while standing on the tracks of the vehicle he leaned into the cab to start the engine. For some reason the forwarder suddenly moved forward, throwing him under the wheels of the forwarder and crushing him to death. His colleagues were thrown clear.

Never attempt to start a machine, other than from the driving position

There have been many serious incidents involving vehicles at the site of tree work. Vehicle operators are particularly at risk during maintenance.

Work should not be carried out on or under a machine or whilst a machine is running or the keys in the ignition and controls engaged. When carrying our maintenance, always follow Safe Stop.

  • Handbrake on
  • Controls neutral
  • Engine off
  • Remove key

Do not attempt to start a vehicle other than from the driving position, from where the operator is able to control the vehicle.

Maintenance must be carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s handbook which should be available.

All operators should be suitably and sufficiently trained in order to undertake tree felling work and the operation of forestry machinery.

You can find more detailed guidance in workplace transport in HSE's website Vehicles at work.

Contact with an Overhead Power Line (OHPL)

A 65-year-old self-employed director was electrocuted by an Overhead Power Line (OHPL)

The deceased was driving a lorry-mounted timber crane along a forest track when the boom of the crane touched an OHPL and caught fire. He was electrocuted as he dismounted the lorry cab. It would appear that the crane boom was not fully folded and stowed in the transport position while travelling and came into contact with the OHPL.

Work should be planned to minimise the risk of contact with OHPLs

Make sure you have a map of the routes of the lines (available from your Distribution Network Operator) and that visiting workers such as contractors have copies (include details of OHPLs in contracts).

Organise operations within the worksite to minimise the need for vehicles to pass close to or beneath OHPLs.

When travelling to and from worksites machine booms and attachments should be lowered to a safe height.

Erect goalposts within and between worksites to ensure vehicles do not contact OHPLs.

What to do if you come into contact with an OHPL

  • If part of a vehicle or load is in contact with an OHPL, the operator should remain in the cab and inform the DNO immediately (display the number in the cab and keep it on your mobile phone).
  • Keep others away.
  • Try to drive clear or lower the parts of the machine in contact with the OHPL. If this is not possible JUMP CLEAR – do not dismount by climbing down the steps. Do not return to the vehicle until the owner of the line has confirmed that it has been de-energised and made safe.
  • Never try to disentangle equipment until the DNO has confirmed that the OHPL  has been de-energised and made safe.
  • WARNING: Contact with an OHPL may cause the power supply to ‘trip out’ temporarily and it may be reconnected and re-energised automatically, without warning. Therefore do not assume a line is de-energised until it has been confirmed with the DNO.

Find out how to prevent this type of accident

2014-01-31