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Bucker struck during chain reaction of falling trees

Date of incident: October 2013
Notice of incident number: 2013161740324
Employer: Shake block cutting company

Incident summary
A worker was cutting a blown-down cedar tree into shake blocks in an area of old-growth timber with a steep slope. The cedar tree he was bucking was lying on the root base of a standing green hemlock tree. As the worker cut blocks off the fallen cedar, the weight on the hemlock's root base decreased, causing the hemlock to fall. This caused a chain reaction of falling trees, one of which struck the worker, causing fatal injuries.


Investigation conclusions

Causes

  • Worker struck by an unstable tree. As the worker cut shake blocks off a fallen cedar that was lying on the root base of a standing hemlock, the weight on the root base decreased. The standing hemlock fell, starting a chain reaction of falling trees. One of the trees struck the worker, inflicting fatal injuries.
  • Inadequate planning and hazard assessment. Although the worksite had been identified as a high-hazard, landslide-prone area, there was no harvesting plan in place. The employer failed to complete a hazard assessment to identify and assess hazards, and known hazards were not relayed to workers. A landslide assessment was not conducted, and dangerous trees were not identified and assessed. The worker failed to recognize the hazards in the worksite.

Contributing factor

  • Lack of supervision. There was a lack of supervision at the worksite. The supervisor had not attended the worksite in the bush since work began at the location; instead, he remained at the roadside, providing maps of the area to workers. The supervisor failed to identify and relay hazards to the workers.

Other safety issues

  • Inadequate emergency evacuation planning. The employer had no effective emergency evacuation plan in place. Its procedures relied on a radio system that failed when the co-worker attempted to call for help, forcing him to drive away to find cell phone service. The employer did not have prior arrangements with an air transport provider as required.
  • Inadequate first aid. The employer did not ensure that appropriate first aid certifications and equipment were in place. The worker had a first aid kit, but it was usually stored a 10- to 15-minute walk away from the worksite, inside a personal vehicle. On the morning of the incident, the first aid kit was not at the worksite.
  • Working in isolation. The workers were working in isolation, in circumstances where emergency assistance was not readily available. The worksite was too far off the road and in steep terrain with no escape route, preventing an injured worker from being carried out.
  • Inadequate training. The co-worker was not provided new worker training, nor was he given any training in relation to health and safety and emergency evacuation procedures.

Request the full report

Publication Date: Oct 2013 Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2013161740324