Fatal Facts: Riding on the Step of a Skidder

SUMMARY

An 18-year-old skidder operator at a logging site was killed when he fell off a moving skidder while riding as a passenger outside the cab. OR-FACE received notification of the incident the following day from Oregon OSHA. This report is based on information in the Oregon OSHA report.

This stock photo of a skidder model like the one in this incident shows the step outside the cab where the operator was standing to hitch a ride.

The company was hired to skid and chip about 500 acres of pre-cut lodge pole pine. Along with other machinery, the crew used two grapple skidders and a portable chipper for the operation. Four employees were onsite at the time of the incident.

According to Oregon OSHA, the company did not maintain several required elements of a safety and health program as described in the Oregon forest activities safety regulations. Lacking were monthly safety meetings, documented employee training on machinery, supervisor responsibilities, hazard identification and control, jobsite safety inspections, employee involvement, and evaluation of employee work practices.

The skidder operator had been trained to operate the skidder by the supervisor at the worksite, who was also his father. The operator had 3-4 months of experience on the equipment. The operator’s coworker, operating a second skidder, was also 18 years old, and had about one year of experience operating a skidder. Riding on the access step, outside the machine operators’ cab, was a common practice at the worksite.

INVESTIGATION

On the day of the incident, the skidder operator arrived with the logging crew about 5:30 a.m. At the end of the day, about 4:30 p.m., he parked his skidder next to the portable chipper at the landing site. His final job was to fuel the machinery. The fuel truck was located about 750 feet away, up a 1% grade dirt skid-road. He hitched a ride on a second skidder, operated by his coworker, to retrieve the truck and return to the landing site.

The operator rode on an access step outside the cab – which is not intended for passengers – holding onto handrails on the door and rear of the cab for support. The skidder was running in second gear, at half throttle, on nearly level ground. The two skidder operators were talking during the ride, until the coworker noticed his passenger did not respond. The coworker discovered the operator, lying in the road behind him, about three-quarters of the way to the fuel truck. The victim had been crushed by the right rear wheel of the skidder. The coworker alerted other workers onsite, and basic first aid was attempted. The victim died at the scene, shortly after the arrival of first responders from the local fire department.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Never ride as a passenger on a machine unless an appropriate seat and operator restraint system is available.
  • Employers must develop a formal training process for operators of mobile machinery, including written documentation and regular evaluation.
  • Employers must demonstrate a commitment to safety, and encourage employee participation.