As a leading provider of arboricultural training, our attention was recently caught by news, as communicated in a Safety Bulletin issued by Scottish Woodlands, of a forwarder overturning, an incident that we are fortunate to report did not cause any injuries.
That is all the more remarkable given that the operator of the machine involved – a Valmet 865 – was not wearing his seat restraint, causing him to fall within the cab, breaking a window in the process. The machine was fitted with double band tracks and was carrying a full load of 3.7m logs when it overturned.
While the machine operator was remarkably unhurt, using the door to leave the cab, there can be no doubt that this incident was a near miss – and that it gives much for the recipients of Staffordshire arborist training to learn from.
A one-way loop system was being used to extract the timber that was involved in the incident, having been successfully used on other parts of the same and similar sites by the same harvesting team. The agreed working method entailed the part-loading of the forwarder on the 30 degree slope of the steeper upper sections, prior to topping up to the full load on the lower sections. Unloading then took place at the loading bay, followed by the forwarder’s move back to the top of the loop.
On this occasion, however, a full timber load had been taken on by the operator at the site’s top steepest section. The machine was rendered unstable by the stacking of the load up tight against the bunk head, which was set in the forward position. Greater stability would have been ensured if the bunk head had been set further back, given how much more evenly the load’s weight would have sat over the back wheels.
The operator’s failure to watch/monitor the bunk section while driving forward down the hill meant that the rear section was allowed to snag and drag on a pile of brash, resulting in the tipping of the bunk, which took the cab over with it.
Not only is the Valmet 865 fitted with glass front windscreens, side and door windows that can be broken to allow their use as emergency exits, but the rear windows are also Margard/Safety glass, giving the operator protection during the loading/unloading process.
At the very least, there is a lesson to be learned of the importance of operators always wearing a seat restraint to hold them in the centre of their cab in the event of their machine overturning.