I ran across this fatality report from a few years ago and I always try to read these things and understand what went wrong. Better to learn from the other guy's mistakes and not make them myself.
The thing is, with this one, I can't picture how he was tied in and what caused him to go down when his ground guy lowered the section of cut trunk...
The report is below - can anyone make sense of it? I just can't picture it. Three trees in a row I got. Tied in to the middle tree I got. But... how did he come out of the tree?
In the fall of 2009, the Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program was
notified via a coroner of an occupational fatality involving an arborist removing trees at a private residence.
A site visit was conducted, and photographs were taken. Interviews were held with
the homeowner, coroner, and the local police.
A homeowner was concerned that four mature Siberian Elm trees located in the back yard next to
a wooden fence on the property line, created a possible hazard to neighboring property. A
driveway and garage were located under the tree canopy on the neighbor’s side of the fence. The
trees were approximately 50 feet – 60 feet tall and were approximately 70 feet from the
homeowner’s house. A residential power line ran from the neighbor’s property through the trees
to the homeowner’s house. The ground was flat. To abate the hazard to the neighboring
property, and the power line, the homeowner hired a tree removal company to cut down the four
trees. The arborist was to remove all limbs, branches, tree trunks, and debris from the property.
On the day of the incident, the arborist finished his eight-hour day at his full-time job and arrived at the residence shortly after 5:00 PM in a pickup truck hauling a wood chipper behind. He had with him one ground person, climbing spurs, a tree climbing saddle, a small chain saw, and three ropes: an orange 12 – 16 strand braided rope used for climbing (climbing line); a blue 12 – 16 strand, braided rope, 7’ – 9’ long, that was used as a safety line (personal lanyard); and a white, three-strand twisted rope that was used for pulling/ lowering tree sections to the ground (work line).
Upon arriving at the work site, the arborist donned his spurs and climbing saddle then met briefly with the homeowner. Three of the four trees to be removed were in a line and close together.
Facing the wooden fence and the three trees grouped together, the tree on the left was 14” – 16”
in diameter, the middle tree was approximately 18” in diameter, and the diameter of the tree on
the right was unknown. There was approximately three feet between the tree on the left and the
middle tree, and approximately eight feet from the middle tree to the tree on the right.
The arborist used his climbing line to climb the middle tree and secure himself to a fork in the middle tree. The personal lanyard’s length could be adjusted by being pulled in or out through a prussic knot in a short piece of rope tied to a snap or carabiner affixed to a side D-ring on the climbing saddle. The lanyard went around the tree and the other end of the lanyard was affixed to the Dring on the opposite side of the saddle, allowing the climber to secure himself in position, and the climbing line (when the lanyard was detached from the tree) allowed him to move freely around the canopy of the three trees.
The chain saw was pulled up the tree on the orange climbing line. The arborist then used the
chain saw to cut away branches from the three trees. As the limbs fell to the ground, the ground
person hauled them to the wood chipper. The arborist had completely removed the canopy from
the left and middle trees and some of the canopy from the tree on the right. Sections of the left and middle tree trunks had also been removed and lowered to the ground.
The arborist had tied one end of the work line to the tree on the left approximately 16 feet up the trunk, and tied the other end of the same rope to the fork approximately 20 feet high on the middle tree. The arborist had secured his lanyard through a fork where both the work line and lanyard were tied.
The arborist signaled his ground person to pull the cut tree trunk section to the ground. The tree trunk section and arborist both fell to the ground.
The homeowner was inside the residence visiting with a neighbor. At approximately 7:10 PM,
the neighbor said that something outside did not sound right. The homeowner and neighbor went
outside and found the arborist at the base of the tree and the assistant administering medical aid.
The climbing rope was found wrapped around the tree trunk and the arborist’s hand and body;
the lanyard was wrapped around the tree trunk at the fork, and the work line was wrapped around
the fork of the tree trunk as well. The homeowner contacted emergency medical services who
arrived and found the arborist without vital signs.
First of all the report is written by some one who is unfamiliar with tree work terminology, so they are describing it as best as they can.
I can think of two possible scenarios based on the description. either the chunk of wood they were lowering caused the rigging line to melt the climber's flip line and he fell because he was not tied in twice. Or he was attached to the chunk of wood and fell with it when the ground guy pulled it over. It is difficult to come to an exact conclusion based on the report.
The piece of cut wood made a swing towards the climber. This caused the injury. The rigging line and the safety line where in the same fork in the middle tree. The fork acted as a pivot point which directed the log towards the climber.
The main error is putting the flip line and the rigging line in the same fork. Maybe the climber didn’t want the ground man to hold the rigging line static. The weight of the log falling could create a large shock in the fork and the climber could lose control because his flip line is also tied in that same fork. If the ground man let the rigging line slip to break the impact of the log falling, the moving line could cut the flip line and therefore also make the climber fall.