Date: 11 March 1997
Subject: Farmer Killed on Tractor During Logging Operations
A 21-year-old male was killed when he and his 19-year-old brother
were engaged in logging activities their grandparents=
farmland. They both had grown up helping with the family farm
and for the last two years their primary source of income was
cutting trees on the land to sell for firewood. After cutting
down the trees, the normal routine was for the younger brother
to operate the tractor to pull the trees to a clearing where they
would be cut into pieces. Although the victim had experience operating
tractors, he had never performed that particular task. Because
there was no drawbar on the 1950 Massey Ferguson (model 30) tractor
they used to pull the trees, they hitched a chain at a higher
point than is recommended. After working for about 30 minutes,
the two brothers got into a small argument. The victim stated
that he also wanted to perform the task of hauling the trees to
the clearing and got onto the tractor to pull a log which had
been secured with the tow chain. Nearly immediately the tractor
reared backwards and flipped over onto its side, trapping the
victim underneath the steering wheel and fender. The tractor was
not equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS). The
younger brother witnessed the incident and ran to the grandparents=
house and called 911 then drove another tractor back to the site
and pulled the tractor off his brother=s
body. By this time rescue squads arrived but the victim was pronounced
dead at the scene.
In order to prevent similar events from occurring, FACE investigators
On 29 January 1997, FACE was informed of the death of a 21-year-old
male killed two days prior while operating a tractor to pull felled
trees. Access to the site was denied by the family due to difficulty
dealing with the tragedy. The coroner was contacted to obtain
details of the case and an interview was conducted on 26 February
1997. Copies were obtained of the death certificate, coroner=s
report and EMS report. Photographs of the scene taken by the coroner
While growing up, the victim and his younger brother had been
involved in helping on the grandparents=
130 acre farmland, which was hilly and mostly covered with trees.
Tobacco had been the main crop grown but this ceased several years
ago. About two years prior to the incident, the two siblings bought
a house together near their grandparents and began logging operations
full-time on the farmland. In addition to their own business,
they would also assist their grandparents with other chores on
the farm as needed. The victim had been in generally good health.
For about 2 years, the victim in this incident and his younger
brother had worked together full-time on their grandparent=s
130-acre farmland clearing trees to sell for firewood. After felling
the trees, they would chain one to the tractor then pull it to
a clearing for cutting. Their usual routine was for the younger
brother to pull the trees with a tractor; although the victim
had experience driving tractors on the family farm, he had never
performed this task. The tractor they used to pull the felled
trees was a 1950 Massey Ferguson which was not equipped with a
rollover protective structure (ROPS). It did not have a drawbar
and thus they secured the 25-foot chain they used to pull the
trees to a hook located high on the back of the tractor.
Because it had been raining on the morning of the incident, the
brothers did not begin their work until about 1 pm. Although the
area was covered with grass, it was very wet and muddy due to
rain over the previous days. They both worked cutting down the
trees and then securing a felled tree with the chain on the tractor.
They had only been working for about 30 minutes when the brothers
got into a small argument. The older brother wanted to prove that
he could also perform the task of pulling the trees with the tractor,
although he had no experience doing that task. He got onto the
tractor to pull the attached tree which was about 8-10 inches
in diameter. The younger sibling was standing about 10 feet from
away and attempted to shout directions to his brother. Almost
immediately, the tractor reared backward and flipped over onto
its left side. The victim was thrown off, landed on his back,
and was trapped underneath the steering wheel and the left fender
of the tractor. The younger brother witnessed the incident and
ran back to the grandparent=s
house about 3/4 miles from the site to get help. He called 911.
There was no one at home to provide any further assistance. He
drove the other available tractor, a Ford 3600 (also not equipped
with a ROPS), back out to the site. The rescue squad was dispatched
at 2:01 pm and arrived on the scene at 2:13. Using chains that
were already attached to the Ford, the overturned tractor was
pulled off of the victim=s
body. The coroner was called and the victim was pronounced dead
at the scene.
CAUSE OF DEATH
The cause of death on the death certificate is listed as suffocation
due to compression of chest as a result of farm tractor overturning
and resting on chest.
Recommendation #1: Tractors should be equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and seatbelt.
Discussion: The 1950 Massey Ferguson (model 30)
tractor that was being used to pull the cut trees was not equipped
with a ROPS. The ROPS, in conjunction with wearing a seatbelt,
provides a protective zone for the operator in the event of a
turnover. In this case, if the tractor had been retrofitted with
a ROPS and the victim had been wearing a seatbelt, the victim
would have been kept in the protective zone of the ROPS when the
tractor reared up and overturned, thus likely avoiding fatal injury.
A ROPS kit for this tractor is available from SAF-T-CAB for approximately
$490 (this price includes the seatbelt but not shipping or installation
Recommendation #2: Hitching points on the tractor for tow chains should be carefully selected.
Discussion: Improperly attaching a tow chain to
a point above the tractor=s
drawbar can cause tractors to suddenly flip backward. In this
case, the tractor did not have a drawbar which is normally used
to attach a tow chain. The chain was secured to a hook higher
up on the back of the tractor than what is safely recommended.
Recommendation #3: Obtain training or instruction from experienced workers before performing new tasks.
Discussion: In this case, although the victim was
experienced in operating a tractor, he had never performed the
task that caused the fatal incident. Obtaining instructions from
an experienced worker and learning the hazards before beginning
a new task can help to decrease the risk of injury.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
ANIOSH Warns: Improper
Hitching to Tractors Can Be Fatal.@
NIOSH Update; January 1997.
SAF-T-CAB: PO Box 2587, Fresno, CA 93745; phone 1800-344-7491.