Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Jason S. Milburn
Title:Injuries on Mechanized Logging Operations in the Southeastern United States
Degree:Master of Science in Forestry
Committee Chair: Robert M. Shaffer
Committee Members:W. Michael Aust
Richard G. Oderwald
Keywords:logging, safety
Date of defense:June 19, 1998
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


A random sample of injuries to employees of mechanized logging operations in the piedmont and coastal plain regions of the Southeastern U.S. was taken from the 1996-1997 claims records of three cooperating Worker's Compensation Insurance carriers. For each claim, information was gathered about the accident. Additional information on equipment, labor, and operations was gathered for each firm reporting a sample claim. All data was recorded in a spreadsheet program for sorting and analysis.

The deckhand was the crew member most frequently injured (34% of claims), followed by equipment operators (28%) and truck drivers (24%). The delimbing/topping job function resulted in 24% of injuries, followed by maintenance/repair of equipment (19%), operating equipment (15%), and mounting/dismounting equipment (9%). The injuries occurred on the log deck (41%), in the woods (29%), and at a shop (11%). Most injuries were "struck by" type (50%), but 21% were "falls". The mean claims cost was $10,920 and the median claims cost was $1,200. On fully mechanized operations, 24% of total injuries are still a result of chainsaw delimbing or felling. Equipment operator injuries occur during maintenance/repair (29%) and while mounting/dismounting the equipment (23%). One-third of injuries to truck drivers was the result of motor vehicle accidents.


* A worker performing equipment maintenance or repair, or a worker felling or delimbing a tree not processed by a feller-buncher or delimbing device, has the greatest risk of injury on fully-mechanized operations.

* Mechanization of the delimbing function will reduce but not eliminate the most costly injuries, where a worker on the ground is "struck-by" a tree, limb, or log.

* Equipment maintenance or repair should be performed in the controlled environment of a shop, rather than in the field, in order to decrease injuries.

* Operating a chainsaw is still a very dangerous logging job function, even on mechanized operations. All employees that use a chainsaw should undergo extensive training, and only trained employees should use a chainsaw.

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