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An Unexpected Release of Energy!

What happens when a tree or branch, under tension, suddenly breaks, rolls or springs back toward you?

FIPS 7825 – Serious Harm: A number of wind-thrown trees, felled up-hill, required head pulling. As the rigging settled on these trees its combined weight rested on one larger branch (see picture top of page 4). As the breaker-out moved in to ‘chain-up’ this larger branch suddenly snapped away from the stem in a whipping-action. The branch struck the breaker-out fracturing his cheek and eye socket!

Always look out for stored energy!

Every day, forestry workers face situations and circumstances that contain a lot of stored energy. Sometimes that energy is obvious and at other times, it is not. Indeed, something else in the environment could obscure the stored energy e.g. a clump of scrub or a mound of soil. Here are some factors to keep in mind: 

  • Many incidents happen during ‘upset conditions’something is different, or things have changed. In FIPS 7825 (above), the trees had been felled up-hill (necessarily so).

  • Wind thrown trees will invariably contain stored energy – uneven forces!

  • Never put yourself into a hazardous area – particularly under a raised object.

  • Properly identify if a stem or branch is under tension or compression.

  • Watch out for hydraulics – one small glitch (or slip) can unleash the full effects.

  • Never use your hands or fingers to search for hydraulic or air leaks.

  • Apply the safety locks/devices/brakes if these are available. Chock the wheels.

  • Seek a second opinion – two heads are better than one in tricky situations!

View this article in Safety Bulletin 101