The death of a 21-year-old tree feller, working from a bucket truck as part of a small tree-felling crew, might have been avoided had the contractor ensured that the crew was led by a person with substantial experience in tree felling, and if crews had been equipped with satellite phones to ensure communication with the supervisor and medical emergency services was readily available, according to an evaluation by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program.
The tree-felling crew was charged with taking down an 80- to 90-foot, fire-damaged oak tree located below a county road in California that ran along the steep bank of a creek ravine. The crew had been instructed not to fell the tree into the ravine due to environmental and cultural concerns. The plan discussed with supervisors before the accident involved taking the tree down in small sections.
But, after the supervisor left, the victim decided instead to take down the tree in two large sections. To do this, the crew used a rigging line pulled by a mini-excavator to direct the cut sections to fall uphill toward the road. However, neither section fell in the intended direction.
The second section caused the fatal blow to the worker. It fell uphill against the bucket truck he was in, crushing his head and torso. Following the investigation, the recommendations were made that in the future contractors should ensure that someone with substantial experience with tree felling is leading such projects, and that workers have access to phone service in order to call supervisors with any change of plans or to contact medical emergency services.
Between 12 and 13 U.S. workers die each day as a result of a traumatic injury on the job. The FACE program allows investigations into the accidents to identify factors that contributed to these fatal injuries. This information is used to develop comprehensive recommendations for preventing similar deaths.