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Tree worker

incident database

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The Arboriculture industry statistically is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. It is imperative that the health and safety within our industry keeps evolving. It is our responsibility as Arborists to implement the safe work practices on our job sites, to wear all relevant PPE, to train apprentices and new hires in the correct way without allowing bad habits and potentially dangerous techniques.

We need to analyze our own incidents, learn from them, and figure out where mistakes were made and how the incident can be avoided/prevented in the future. We have to share these stories and experiences with our colleagues, and if possible to an even broader audience through social media and industry events.

Our goal is to create the most comprehensive 'Tree Worker incident database' that includes close calls and injuries. This database outlines the type of injury, the cause, a detailed description of the incident, factors leading to the incident and what could have been changed to avoid the injury (in the opinion of the contributor).

Date of incident09/20/2022
IncidentChainsaw cut to the neck
Location of incidentHuntington, WV
United States
Map It
Age of impacted party28
Type of incident
  • Cut body part
Type of equipment involved
  • Chainsaw
Type of injury
  • Cut/Laceration
Bodily injury to
  • Head/neck
Action taken
  • Offsite Medical Professional assistance
Involvement of contributorWorker performing task
  • Sunny/mostly sunny
Causes of the incident
  • Fatigue
  • Training deficiency
  • Complacency
  • Bad work positioning
Description of incident

Embarrassing to say, but I feel the need to share another don’t be complacent story. I was working in what I had assumed was a Pin Oak, but I had a friend tell me that it was a scarlet oak. I wasn’t in a very good mind frame and hadn’t actually paid enough attention to the tree. There were two of us in this tree. Another guy who is 50 and well seasoned was working the inner side of the tree using the crane and I got impatient and moved to the opposite side of the tree and started laying out large limbs. I was using the snap cut for all of them. The largest was about 12 inches diameter and the next 3 got smaller. I had a good high tie in point and it was wrapped around another lead which was causing some pull back. I clipped into the lead with my lanyard but it wasn’t comfortable either. Instead of getting properly adjusted I made the under cut and when I put the top cut in the limb barber chaired and slung the saw out and around, right into my neck so violently I was in shock I still had a head. Checked for blood once before it started spewing out. I jumped down to where the other climber was and when he looked at the cut he told me he thought i might have hit the artery so I started panicking a little but I didn’t have enough rope to get to the ground so I had to reset my tie and then repel. I missed the artery and got stitched up at the hospital as the urgent care wouldn’t do it. They said i didn’t miss the artery by much but who knows I’m not a doctor. I just know I’m lucky to be alive and the cut was deep but relatively short in width which is also strange.

Contributing factors

I had been a little sick and I told the other climber I was getting tired far more quickly than usual. For me to not even properly identify the tree I was going to be working in shows it. I had horrible positioning to make the cut. And I was not expecting the limb to split and definitely not expecting the saw to jump out which you should always expect as a potential outcome. Definitely a combination of complacency, fatigue, possibly some training failure although I’m still confused as to why the smallest limb was the one to split.

Incident review and preventative measures

Better rest, more focus, better hold on saw and tools, better work positioning, slowing down a little bit could all have prevented this from happening. I am grateful I made it through this experience and hopefully this saves someone the trouble.

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