The log truck driver had been hauling “long logs” from the logging site for about a week. All of the remaining logs on site were “short logs,” about 12-24 feet in length, and only one truck would be needed to finish the job. The night before the last load, with the help of his employer, the log truck driver configured his truck for hauling the short logs by extending the trailer and adding a second set of bunks, known as a “turkey rack.” The trailer’s bunk stakes had extension rods at the top that could be raised to increase the height of the bunks. However, that night the driver and his boss left these lowered.
The Truck Operator
The 55-year-old log truck driver had been working at the job site where the incident occurred for about a week. He had been employed by the small trucking and logging company for about three years, and had been driving log trucks for over 15 years. He had experience hauling both long and short logs.
The log truck driver arrived at the landing around 5:00 a.m. on a cool, dry morning in September. The loader operator was already there, warming up the grapple loader. The two had been working together all week. It was before sunrise and still too dark to work without the loader lights. The driver backed the log truck into position so that the rear of the trailer on the passenger side of the truck was next to the log loader. The driver kept in radio contact with the loader operator as he was getting the trailer into place. The cab of the loader faced away from the cab of the truck.
The log truck driver was in the cab of his truck when the loader operator placed the first load of logs in the bunk at the front of the trailer. The loader operator turned the cab and boom back toward the deck and picked up two more logs. As he brought the logs around to place them in the rear bunk of the trailer, he suddenly caught a glimpse of an orange safety vest and realized the log truck driver was standing on the back of the trailer. He immediately reversed direction of the load and the two logs fell from the grapple, landing on the ground behind the trailer.
The loader operator climbed out of the cab and found the log truck driver lying unconscious over the bar of the rear bunk. He had been struck by the logs, either as they were swung toward the bunk or as they fell. The loader operator couldn’t lift the log truck driver down off of the trailer. He called 911 and tried to keep the driver’s airway open until emergency responders arrived. The log truck driver was declared dead at the scene. Emergency personnel reported that the log truck driver was wearing a long-sleeved shirt over his safety vest.
The exact reason the log truck driver left the cab cannot be known, but investigators believe that he climbed onto the trailer to raise the bunk stake extensions that he had left lowered the night before.
An investigation found that a number of factors contributed to the fatal incident. 1. Most importantly, the log truck driver did not communicate with the loader operator before leaving the safety of the truck’s cab. 2. The position of the loader in relation to the log truck created a blind spot for the loader operator - the log truck driver was hidden by the boom arm. 3. The log truck driver was using his PPE improperly by wearing a long-sleeved shirt over his high-visibility safety vest. 4. The pre-dawn darkness lowered visibility.
- Train log truck drivers to always establish and confirm visual or radio communication with the loader operator before leaving the cab of the truck during loading procedures.
- Train loader operators to verify by sight or radio contact that the driver is in the clear before loading.
- Ensure that when employees are working with a new company or crew member, or when conditions or procedures change, the intended loading process is reviewed before loading begins.
- Employers should provide log truck drivers with appropriate high-visibility safety vests and train them to ensure that they are worn in an effective manner.
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP)
PO Box 44330
Olympia, WA 98504-4330
Safety Issues is presented by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in partnership with the National Truckers Association (NTA), with major contributions from State partners funded by NIOSH through the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program. The goal of the FACE Program is to prevent occupational fatalities across the nation by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then developing and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace. State partners who contribute Safety Issues postings based on recent investigative reports are California, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington.
This month’s Safety Issues is based on an investigative report from the Washington FACE Program. The complete detailed Washington FACE INVESTIGATION: #11WA033 includes additional case information, recommendations and discussion. This report can be found at www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/Face/Files/52332015LogTruckDriverStruckByLogs.pdf
Additional WA FACE Investigation Reports, Fatality Narratives, Hazard Alerts, Fatal Facts, and data summaries can be accessed through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries at www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/FACE/default.asp