Cut-to-Length Operator Crushed to Death

Hazard Alert

Cut-to-Length Processor Operator Crushed to Death by Feed Rollers

Before dawn on an extremely cold morning (-40 degrees), the owner/operator of a cut-to-length processor with five years experience climbed down from the cab with the machine running and the hydraulics engaged and began work on removing the measuring wheel, which measures the length of logs to be cut.

The processor head was resting on the ground in the upright position. The owner/operator was inside the processor head, his head and shoulders between the feed rollers that guide the logs into the processor head. As he attempted to manually remove the spring-loaded measuring wheel, a co-worker assisted from outside the processor head with a pry-bar. Shortly after the owner/operator began to pull on the measuring wheel, the feed rollers closed on him, pinning and crushing his head and upper shoulders.


In cold weather, operators of mechanical harvesting equipment sometimes leave their machines running through the night to keep the hydraulic fluids warm. In this case, the owner/operator started up the processor in the morning and began to do maintenance work while the machine was warming up and without switching off the hydraulics from the cab. This failure to shut down and lock out the hydraulics and the electronic components before performing maintenance was the major contributing factor in the fatality. Any movement of the measuring wheel could have sent a signal back to the computer, automatically triggering a command to the feed rollers.

Recommendations to Prevent a Recurrence

  • Maintenance work must never be done on equipment unless the equipment is shut down, locked out and in a zero-energy state. If this simple but crucial rule of occupational health and safety had been followed, the fatal incident would not have occurred.
  • Even in extremely cold weather, when machinery needs to be warmed up in order to function properly, the only safe way to do maintenance work is with the equipment shut down and locked out. In this case, the cut-to-length processor should have been started up only after the work on the measuring wheel was completed.
  • If there is any doubt about how to perform the repairs or maintenance work, the owner’s manual should be consulted and, if necessary, the work should be done by more qualified personnel.

Goals of the FSSNS

  • Save lives and reduce injuries.
  • Reduce all costs associated with work place accidents.
  • Improve profits.
  • Maintain compliance with regulatory bodies.
  • Manage and establish ownership of industry managed loss control programs.
  • Reduce Workers' Compensation rates.
The Forestry Safety Society of Nova Scotia is registered under the Societies Act of Nova Scotia. It is a separate entity, having a Memorandum of Association and By-Laws. The Society is governed by a Board of Directors, representing all sectors of the forest industry.