Print Share

Worker’s leg amputated in forestry skidder winch incident

Tuesday, 25 June, 2019 - 15:00
Incidents & prosecutions

A worker recently had their leg amputated onsite after it became entangled in the cable winch mechanism of a forestry skidder machine at a rural property in Queensland.

For reasons yet to be established, while “snigging” (dragging tree logs using ropes or chains) with the skidder, the operator’s leg was trapped in the cable winch up to his hip.

The operator could not free himself and required a traumatic surgical amputation on-site to be released from the machine.

Skidders are used in forest harvesting operations for “snigging” cut trees or logs. An attachment, such as a large grapple or winch cable, is attached to the rear of the skidder and used to pull cut trees or logs to a collection point.

Skidders are also known as rubber-tyred tractors or crawler tractors, and they are often used in areas that are difficult for other forestry machines to access.

To commence snigging with a winch, the operator parks the skidder near a tree or log. Then the operator or another worker walks the winch cable to the trees or logs and hooks them up.

When the operator is back in the cabin of the skidder, they winch the logs or trees towards the rear of the skidder and then “snig” (move) them to the collection point.

Most skidders are equipped with a winch designed for direct pull operations only (pulling in line with the winch’s centre line). Winching at an angle is hazardous because there is a risk of pulling the machine on its side and breaking or damaging the cable.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland said that operators must always be aware and alert when using the winch as this fitted part is extremely powerful and can, at times, pull the skidder backwards.

Duties of a PCBU include ensuring: the provision and maintenance of safe plant; and the inspection and maintenance of the plant is carried out by a competent person in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Higher order risk controls including a safe system of work should be implemented to manage the risks associated with inspection and maintenance of the plant. Plant includes anything fitted, connected or attached to the plant.

The PCBU must ensure that for any rubber tyred skidder and crawler tractor:

  • The rubber tyres that are in good order, with sufficient tread pattern to provide traction
  • The winch fitted to the skidder is suitable for the skidder’s pulling capacity
  • Is regularly serviced and maintained, always keeping it in good working order, as specified in the operator’s handbook.


Since 2013, there has been an average of 22 accepted workers’ compensation claims each year for injuries relating to being trapped by mobile plant within the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries – and 50 per cent of these claims involve serious injuries with five or more days off work.

In the same period, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has been notified of 59 incidents involving mobile plant within the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries.