2009-08-09 Severe injuries from chainsaw

Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
Impact Reforestation
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

A silviculture worker was operating a chainsaw removing competing vegetation from a nine-year old stand of conifers. The worker had just begun work and had worked down the slope from the road, turned and began working back up the slope. The worker cut a small Alder and then proceeded to step over it. When he did he caught his boot on the fallen tree causing him to lose his balance. At this point the chain had stopped moving and the saw was idling. As the worker fell forward the tip of the bar hit the ground causing the bar to come back towards him. As the saw came back, something engaged the throttle. Given the speed at which this occurred the worker was unsure if it was his hand or a foreign object had engaged the throttle. Based on the site inspection it does seem most likely that the worker's hand slipped onto the throttle as he fell causing the throttle to engage. This resulted in the saw accelerating towards the worker, which resulted in the tip of the chainsaw striking and lacerating the worker's left bicep. This caused the worker to buckle forward at which point he recalls trying to throw the saw away from him. The inertia of the flipping saw caused it to strike his upper abdomen and then continue on its path across his abdomen, finally striking the base of his right thumb before coming to rest upright on the ground. The incident resulted in an extremely deep and wide laceration to the left bicep, a laceration approximately 30.0cm in length and moderate in depth to the upper abdomen, and a small laceration at the base of the right thumb. While these injuries were extremely severe the potential for this incident to result in a fatality was very real.

Learnings and Suggestions: 


1. The incident occurred within the first 30 minutes of work. It is important to make workers aware of the increased risk of injury early and late in the day due to fatigue or lack of alertness.
2. Slip, trip, falls pose a serious hazard to workers. In this particular incident it was not the fall itself that resulted in the injury but rather its ability to bring a lethal object into contact with the worker. Ensure that the hazards associated with slip, trip, falls are always addressed in safety meetings and that workers are aware of how severe the consequences may be.
3. Complacency in the workplace. This incident occurred on terrain that would be considered mild in terms of the potential hazard to the worker. Working in areas where the perceived hazards are low has the potential to greatly increase risk through complacency. It is essential that workers remain focused in all environments. Not just those where the hazards are obvious and the risk of exposure high. Complacency can be a killer.
4. It is important that chainsaw operators use extreme caution when walking with a chainsaw. The chain brake should always be engaged when cutting is not required. It is important however that the worker not compromise their safety by not removing obstacles and vegetation that may impair their mobility or visibility.


File attachments
2009-08-09 Severe injuries from chainsaw.pdf
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