Axe vs Hatchet: Make the right choice for safety

Safety Alert Type: 
Heavy Equipment
Canfor Woodlands Operations, near Prince George, BC
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

A crew was travelling down an access road and came upon some blow down blocking further travel. The crew got out of the truck, grabbed hatchets and bow saws to remove the tops so they could drive around them.

One crew member proceeded to start cutting the top off of a pine tree (+/- 6”) using a hatchet as others were cutting trees around him. As he was chopping through one of the trees a co-worker came to assist and hold the tree to stabilize it. He was not aware that the co-worker was about to grab the tree as he did not see or hear him approach.

As he was swinging the axe down, the co-worker grabbed the tree which caused it to move forward, out of the hatchet’s path of travel. The follow through caused the hatchet to strike the inside of his own left knee. He immediately felt a sharp pain in his leg then noticed an approx. 1.5cm puncture on the inside of his knee caused by the corner of the hatchet blade.

He performed basic first aid using the level 1 kit from the truck and decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. Once at the hospital, the doctor cleaned and x-rayed the knee to see if there was any unseen injury. There was no further damage other than the puncture wound. The doctor advised him to monitor for infection (swelling, redness) and seek further medical attention if needed.

Key Learnings:

  • Do not use a hatchet for any non-cruising activity
  • Use a bow saw or long handle axe instead
  • Always use two hands when swinging an axe
  • Consider carefully any adjacent branches or other obstacles prior to swinging the axe
  • Always ensure there is clear communication with those around you before swinging an axe


Learnings and Suggestions: 
  • Recognize the hazard – what could go wrong?
  • Assess the hazard – how likely is it for this to occur?
  • Control the hazard – using the hierarchy of controls


For more information on this submitted alert: 

For more information: Tyson von den Steinen, Canfor Prince George 250-962-3229

File attachments
Axe vs Hatchet: Make the right choice for safety.pdf
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