A 30-year-old skidder operator suffered a fractured pelvis when he was struck by a tree felled by his workmate.


The tree feller was helping to strop a log onto the skidder. As it was near his finish time, he asked the skidder operator if he was returning for another drag. The operated replied ‘yes’ and drove off towards the skids.

After assisting the skidder operator with the drag, the tree faller went back up the hill and starting cutting another tree, with his back facing the machine. While working behind the tree, he noticed the skidder and stopped about 30 m away. The operator was at the rear of the skidder hooking up a log.

By now, the tree had begun to fall in the intended direction. The tree feller yelled out but it was too late. Luckily the operator was struck by a branch, not the stem.

[image] Shows direction of falling tree and skidder operator pinned beneath it


The investigation determined that the accident was caused by:

  • a communication breakdown between two experienced loggers
  • felling a tree without ensuring no person is within two tree lengths
  • production pressures.

WorkSafe New Zealand advice

Rules as stated in the: Approved Code of Practice for Safety and Health in Forest Operations

4. Using machinery


Machines shall keep away from tree felling by a distance equal to at least twice the height of the tallest tree being felled. they shall enter the area only when felling has ceased and the fellers have signalled their approval.

3. Safety areas


1. Fellers shall ensure that no:

  • other person
  • machine
  • operating ropes
  • other operations; are within two tree-lengths of the tree being felled.

To which industries/sectors or matters will this information be relevant?

  • Forestry
  • Mobile plant

Published: July 2010. Updated August 2017.

While this bulletin has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe. Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

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