Worker dies after being struck by felled tree

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Tuesday, 28 July, 2020 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions

A worker in Queensland recently died after being struck by a tree he was cutting down with a chainsaw.

Initial findings indicate the tree may not have fallen in the intended direction and caught the man by surprise.

Investigations are continuing into the exact cause, and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland said there were a number of important steps to help prevent a similar incident.

Felling of trees with a chainsaw can be dangerous, particularly when the risks associated with it are not adequately controlled.

When manually cutting trees, the feller normally stands at the base to operate the chainsaw and hastily retreats to a safe position once the tree begins to fall.

However, there are many factors to consider for a specific tree or site that increase the complexity of the process.

Manual felling of trees should only be carried out by workers with appropriate training (e.g. arborist or industry-based qualifications), experience and competence for the particular tasks involved.

Common hazards and risks associated with felling trees using chainsaws can include, but are not limited to:

  • hazardous trees, including damaged, hollow, non-symmetrical or leaning trees
  • escape routes not clearly identified or prepared in advance
  • being struck by the butt of the tree or the tree not falling in the intended direction
  • unsuitable ground conditions and slope or environmental conditions (e.g. wind)
  • falling objects e.g. limbs, dry stags, dead and brittle tops i.e. widow makers (a limb or section of the tree that can fall at any time)
  • kickback or recoil from the chainsaw
  • unsuitable felling procedures or lack of appropriate planning and equipment