PCT Certified Sawyers, Crew Leaders and Partners –
This is a solemn reminder to observe all safety rules and precautions when using chain and crosscut saws on trail maintenance projects. Below are two articles from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy regarding recent volunteer sawyer accidents, one resulting in death.
We have a great track record with safety so this is a reminder to keep it at the forefront of our thoughts on all projects. In a recent publication, the USFS wrote “Think! Accidents bring tears and safety brings cheers” - a bit cheesy but true.
Happy Trails ~ Jen
Article 1: Safety First, and Always!
The May death of a Finger Lakes Trail volunteer was reported by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference in the June issue of its maintainer newsletter, the Trailworker. Two volunteers were clearing trail when one used a chain saw to cut a tree leaning across the trail. It struck another tree, breaking off a branch that hit the victim in the head, causing severe injuries from which he later died.
The article states:
"This fatality, along with another serious accident…in Pennsylvania last year [see The Register, January 2012, article below], are reminders of why our sawyers, and all volunteers, must be fully trained and very careful…. Both the Pennsylvania accident and this one involved attempts to remove trees that were “hung up” or what some call “leaners.” Both trees fell with unexpected consequences.
"A very thorough evaluation of all safety risks must be made of any similar situation and there should be no hesitation to flag the tree, walk away and notify the agency so they can bring in people with more experience. If you have any doubts, stop and walk away!!"
Other important safety notes: Observers and spotters generally should be no closer than 2½ tree lengths of a tree being felled. (U.S. Forest Service Health and Safety Code Handbook, 22.48g), and the maintainer was not wearing a helmet.
Article 2: From the January 2012 issue of The Register:
In late October 2011, a rare early season snowstorm blanketed the northeast from West Virginia through southern New England. Because the leaves were still on the trees, many limbs broke, isolating towns and causing power outages.
Five days after the storm, ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Karen Lutz sent a message warning clubs in the region “to be alert for spring poles and tree branches under extreme and complex tension. Pay particular heed to overhead hazards, as I have personally observed a lot of large broken crowns that are hung up in the remaining overstory…”
About two weeks later, a club work party of four ventured forth on a maintenance trip on the A.T. in Pennsylvania. One of them had seen Karen’s warning, but they had no safety briefing or hazard-tree training.
After working about two hours, they came across the crown of a 12- to 15-inch-diameter tree blocking the Trail. The tree had broken about 25 feet up, but the top was not fully detached. Thinking it would be unsafe for hikers to pass underneath, they trimmed branches from the crown and then tried to move it. The top broke loose, hit some rocks, and “seesawed,” catching one maintainer under the arm, throwing him, and causing serious injuries.
The others acted immediately, providing first-aid and treating the victim for shock, contacting 911 and staying on the line, and sending one member out to meet and guide local fire and rescue personnel back to the scene. The evacuation went smoothly, and the victim was airlifted to a trauma center where he spent several days. He is now home and recovering.
The National Park Service and ATC conducted an “after-action-review” with the workers. As a result, ATC and NPS are identifying opportunities to coordinate with the Trail-maintaining clubs to share best practices in safety training for maintainers. We will be working with clubs and agency partners to advance safety management.
The best course of action when encountering a challenging situation beyond a maintainer's experience and training would be to flag the dangerous area to alert hikers and request assistance from the club's Trail management supervisor, ATC's regional office, or agency personnel.
The first rule should always be: Individual Trail maintainers have the obligation to say “NO” and walk away from any situation they determine to be an unacceptable risk. (Adapted from the Forest Service’s Health and Safety Code Handbook.)
Pacific Crest Trail Association
1331 Garden Highway
Sacramento, CA 95833
(916) 285-1853 (direct line)
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The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as an internationally significant resource for the enjoyment of hikers and equestrians, and for the value that wild and scenic lands provide to all people.