Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Logging Tradgedy

Fortuna logger killed in accident – Woods fatality is the second in Humboldt County in a week. Reported by John Driscoll in the Wednesday, August 25, 2010, Times Standard newspaper.

As a logger that's been around the woods most of his life, and set his fair share of chokers, one of the things I learned early on, is that injury and death happens, BUT not because “setting chokers” is inherently “dangerous.” Subscribe to Twitter and follow the California Highway Patrol and you'll darn soon learn that getting in your car and driving around the North Coast is darn “dangerous.” Safety in the woods is the same as driving in Eureka. It all starts with the right attitude – pay attention and don't assume anything.

Most of the time injury or death is just stupid carelessness. The young man from Idaho was too experienced to get caught-up that way. Here again, working down hill. How about Mr. Moran? The paper says his age is 36. How long had he set chokers or worked under a yarder? Giving the go-ahead after setting chokers when you are down hill, or below the turn of logs tells me there's something else going on here. Which is what usually always happens when there's more workers then there is work.

How many deaths attributed to Steve Will's operations in 30 years? 30 years is plenty enough time for any logging company to be considered experienced with experienced personnel both supervising the operation and in the brush. They, therefore, are experienced enough to know the dangers of operating in particular ways. Other times injury or death is the result of pressure. The constant demand to “move.” Priorities are set on “go” and safety becomes secondary. Expectations set the mental priority and your job is held in the balance. That's when you start taking shortcuts, putting yourself and others in harms way.

Then there's that situation you seemingly don't have any control over. The fluke limb that just came out of nowhere or one particular tree you missed that was rotten to the core and it came back on you. Or maybe you decided to sit down in the shade of a big old uprooted redwood stump one day to eat your lunch and for no apparent reason, without any warning, just toppled over on you. Yes, unforeseen accidents can happen in the woods and on the streets and highways even in our homes. It's been my observed experience, however, that REAL unforeseen accidents are a rarity.

These tragedies come close to home. Many times I put my job and my business on the line, jeopardizing my families welfare, over issues of safety. My wife and I feel the loss, again.


  1. A fellow I went to school with died in a choker setting accident. Every time I hear about another I think of him and his wide grin.

    Having done the job yourself, you must feel a sharper jab than I do.

  2. Over the years I lost track of some of the different guys I knew. Writing the article was a painful reminder. The rootwad incident was real and I worked with that fellow. Over the years you work with a lot of people. The young man was a Vietnam Marine survivor and a really decent person. I grew up in the woods. I bought my first car from the money I made setting chokers during summer vacation when I was 15. People forget how precious life is sometimes.