Logging operations involve felling trees and hauling logs from logging sites to the point of delivery. Logging is considered the most dangerous occupation in the United States, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The industry employs more than 2,600 people across Kentucky.
In addition to the hazards posed by chainsaws and logging machinery, loggers deal with the massive weights and the unstoppable momentum of falling, rolling, and sliding trees and logs. Work is often done under dangerous conditions, such as uneven or rough terrain and/or inclement weather. Because logging is often done at remote work sites, medical facilities are often not readily accessible.
The hazards inherent in logging are addressed in specific OSHA standards. Logging operations supervisors, from corporate CEOs to the logging crew foreman, are responsible for adhering to OSHA rules as well as applicable Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health standards to ensure that loggers are properly trained, equipped and supervised.
Common Logging Accidents
In most cases, we refer to logging accidents as incidents that result in injury to employees in the logging industry. But motorists sharing the roads with logging trucks are at risk of injury if improperly loaded logs come loose and fall off a truck onto the roadway.
Logging accidents include the following accidents:
- Hit by falling objects. Nearly a quarter of all logging accidents are caused by falling logs, limbs, and entire trees that hit people. Logs may fall from skidders, loading platforms or logging trucks. Loggers working at heights, such as in trees or in bucket truck lifts, can be hit by falling branches and also can accidentally drop tools and equipment onto people below.
- Struck by objects. Loggers can be struck by falling limbs. In addition, objects such as wood chips, bark, sawdust and stones can be thrown by chainsaws and other tools and machinery and injure people. A chainsaw itself may kickback and strike its operator if the chain is not sharpened correctly. Struck-by accidents include motor vehicle accidents on logging sites in which workers are hit by vehicles, such as in “backover” accidents.
- Caught-in or caught-between accidents. Rolling and sliding logs, cables, and equipment can trap a worker against another object, such as a tree, embankment or machinery and crush the individual or body parts.
- Falls. Slip and fall and trip and fall accidents are the most common workplace injury, across all industries. Loggers working in a forest can slip and fall because of uneven terrain and/or mud. They may step into holes or trip over cut branches, logs or stumps, or slip on wet leaves. Loggers working at heights may fall from trees, lifts, loading platforms and logging trucks.
- Inclement weather. When wetness and cold cause body temperature to drop, hypothermia can be fatal if the individual cannot be warmed quickly. Lightning strikes can also cause death and injury.
Logging Site Accident Injuries
Many injuries suffered in the logging industry are crush injuries. Crush injuries typically occur when part of the body is squeezed between heavy or immovable objects, such as a fallen tree and the ground.
Crush injuries can cause:
- Head and traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Fractures (broken bones)
- Spinal cord damage, including paralysis
- Internal organ damage
- Soft tissue strains, including lower back injuries
- Compartment syndrome (increased pressure in an arm or leg that causes serious muscle, nerve, blood vessel, and tissue damage)
- Amputation of fingers and toes and limbs
- Bleeding, including internal bleeding
- Cuts, lacerations
- Bruises, contusions.
Chainsaws and other logging equipment can cause serious lacerations, including traumatic amputations, as well as eye injury from flying debris.
Hearing loss is also common among workers continually exposed to the hazardous noise of chainsaws (91-110 dBA) and cable winches. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says noise-exposed workers in forestry and logging have a higher percentage of hearing loss (21%) than all noise-exposed industries combined (19%).
Many Kentucky loggers perform this difficult and physically demanding work for many years without seriously hurting themselves. However, many workers do suffer injuries. OSHA, NIOSH and other public and private organizations offer safety rules, tips and training.
OSHA’s suggested rules in a sample safety program for a logging contractor include:
- Personal protective equipment, which the employer shall provide at no cost to each employee, shall be worn by all employees at all times to protect them from personal injury. Job description and work requirements will determine when, where and what specific equipment is to be used.
- Personal protective clothing, including gloves, ballistic pads or other approved chainsaw leg protection, steel-toed boots with chainsaw cut-resistant protection, hard hat, hearing protection and eye protection must be worn at all times when operating any chainsaw.
- The employer shall ensure that each machine and any hand-portable powered tool, including any machine or tool provided by an employee, is maintained in serviceable condition and is inspected before initial use and before each work shift. Defects or damage shall be repaired or the unserviceable machine shall be replaced before work is begun.
- Every chainsaw placed into initial service shall be equipped with a chain brake and shall otherwise meet the requirements of the ANSI B175-1.1991, “Safety Requirements for Gasoline-Powered Chain Saws.”
- Each employee in the immediate work area in the forest shall work in a position or location that is within visual or audible contact with another employee.
- Before each tree is felled, conditions such as wind conditions, the lean of tree, dead limbs, snow or ice accumulation and the location of other trees shall be evaluated by the logger and precautions taken so a hazard is not created for an employee.
Contact a Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Even an employee who does everything by the book can be injured in a workplace accident, especially in the logging industry. If an occupational injury causes you to miss seven or more days of work, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. The workers’ compensation benefits may include paid medical care and partial replacement of lost wages. This applies to cumulative injuries, such as hearing loss or chronic back pain, too.
The workers’ compensation lawyers of Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer have recovered more than $200 million in workers’ comp benefits for our hardworking Kentucky clients. If you encounter any dispute about your workers’ comp claim or have any questions about what you should be receiving, contact us for a free review of your case. We stand ready to fight for you.