by | Farm & Agriculture, Loss Control |

Unless you’re in the logging industry, or a member of the International Log Rolling Association, United States Log Rolling Association (ILRA / USLRA), you might not be familiar with the sport of Log Rolling.  Log Rolling is a tradition that originated in the Northeastern U. S. and Canada.  Upon completion of river log runs in the spring, lumberjacks would compete to see who could stand the longest on a log rolling in the water, while also trying to cause the other to fall into the water.   While log rolling may be a fun, competitive sport, this article is about a different and more serious type of rolling in the logging industry – heavy equipment rollovers.

Acadia Insurance has been a partner to the logging industry, providing insurance and loss control services, since our company began in 1992.  In 2012, Acadia Insurance’s Loss Control department was awarded the Northeastern Loggers’ Association Outstanding Contribution to Safety.  Our Loss Control Department proudly continues to provide superior loss control services to our many policyholders throughout the Northeast.

During that period equipment fires have been the leading cause of property loss. Throughout those years, our loss control department, undertook extensive investigations, research and collaborative work with industry members and equipment manufacturers to identify potential problem sources, engineering controls to eliminate them, and/or recommendations for safeguards or fire suppression systems.

As we’ve been successful in helping to reduce fire losses, the number and severity of rollover losses have become a greater percentage of industry losses. We consider these particularly serious, as there’s a greater chance of serious operator injury or fatality during a rollover, than a fire.

Rollovers losses usually happen during:

  • Loading and unloading from trailers
  • Operating on steep terrain or near drop-offs
  • Driving over unseen or uneven obstacles, such as rocks or stumps

How to Help Prevent Rollovers

Every machine is different, and every job is different.  First, no operator can be qualified and authorized unless they’ve read and understand the written instructions supplied by the manufacturer.  An operator’s manual will have safety rules, regulations, instructions and other information on how to prepare for safe operation.  Second, the operator must have training on the actual operation of the specific machine they’ll be operating, what to expect, and the unexpected (for example, woods operators may at some point have to unexpectedly load the machine onto a trailer).  Third, the operator must assess each task, work area and overall job and be aware of the hazards in place.  Fourth, and not least, always know and follow all safety rules.

Operator’s manuals will contain specific instruction for each machine, but there are some basic tips, as provided in the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ Feller/Buncher Safety Manual[i], which can be used for job site tailgate huddles.

Know the Working Area

  • Locate all ground workers
  • Know the location of steep slopes, slide areas, drop-offs or over-hangs
  • Assess soil conditions
  • Identify any creeks and gullies
  • Look for any standing water and marshy areas
  • Identify rocks and stumps
  • Look for any holes, brush, piles, obstructions, mud or ice
  • Locate any snags or hangers
  • Be aware of any overhead power, electrical, telephone or utility lines

Traveling On the Worksite

  • Do not cross a bridge until you are sure it will support the weight of your machine
  • Do not cross creeks or wet draws without an adequate and appropriate fill or bridge crossing
  • Be especially careful to allow extra clearance on uneven ground
  • Carry loads low in the transport position for maximum stability and visibility
  • Match your travel speed to the traffic, weather and ground conditions. Take it slow and easy when traveling through congested areas. Travel cautiously over rough or slippery ground and on hillsides. Reduce speed when breaking over a rise.
  • Give the right of way to loaded machines. Maintain a safe distance from other machines.
  • Avoid steep slopes or unstable surfaces. When operating on a slope, keep the felling head low, as close to the machine as possible, and proceed with extreme caution.
  • Do not drive ACROSS a steep slope. Drive straight up and down a steep slope.
  • Avoid turning on an incline. If it is necessary, use extreme caution and make the turn WIDE and SLOW with the felling head and boom in a lowered position, as close to the machine as possible.
  • Operate at speeds slow enough so you have complete control at all times.

Watch Out For Obstacles

  • Avoid traveling over obstacles (logs, tree stumps, rough terrain) whenever possible. If you must cross an obstacle, do so with extreme caution. Never cross an obstacle with a tree in the felling head.
  • WARNING: When operating in deep snow or swamps, use extreme caution. Many hazards may be hidden from sight.
  • Keep the operator protective structure (OPS) in place.
  • WARNING: OVERLOADING IS HAZARDOUS. Make certain you are within the safe load and work radius of your machine. Uneven or sloping terrain will reduce the load and working radius of your machine.

Be Aware of Hazardous Terrain

  • When working in hazardous areas, be extremely alert. Proceed slowly at all times. Sharp turns and fast movement of the machine contribute to instability. Feather your controls to provide smooth movements.
  • Make sure the site footing has sufficient strength to support your machine. Stay a safe distance from the edge of cliffs, ledges or slide areas.
  • When working on an incline or a slope, work straight up and straight down the slope. Fell trees within a 45o sector at the front or rear of the machine. Use extreme caution when swinging the felling head downhill. The machine could become unstable and overturn.
  • If your engine should quit while working on a slope, IMMEDIATELY lower the felling head to the ground and THEN restart the engine.
  • On track equipped machines, ice cleats can be added to help prevent the machine from sliding.
  • If your machine is equipped with leveling devices, never attempt to level the machine while traveling or swinging.

While these tips summarize some of the basic preparation and operation precautions for working safely, they don’t cover everything. You should consider obtaining Safety Manuals, from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers for additional training information. For logging, these include; Feller/Buncher, Forwarder, Log Harvester/Processor and Log Skidder, among many other construction equipment manuals. These safety manuals contain many visuals for the above instructions, as well as more detailed safety instructions for Loading and Unloading procedure.

Researchers from University of Missouri (MU) have developed a smart-phone app VRPETERS (Vehicle Rollover Prevention Education Training Emergency Reporting System),  that uses GPS to detect rollovers and signal emergency responders or family members, providing coordinates of the the rollover location. While designed to reduce fatalities from tractor rollovers among farmers, at a minimum, the emergency system could also be useful for notification of logging equipment rollovers.

For your safety, ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT, and inspect your Rollover Protection System (ROPS). There have been fatalities to operators wearing a seatbelt, but their ROPS failed due to previous damage, welding or modifications.

In conclusion never roll the dice with unnecessary chances on the worksite; a chance taken there could result in equipment rollover, damage to the machine, and injury or death to you or your fellow workers.

Additional sources of material for safety huddles include:

OSHA –  Logging eTool and

General Requirements for Machines and Vehicles

WorkSafeBC –

Mechanical Harvesting (Video) Setting standards for safety: Mechanical harvesting

Accident Investigation Slide Show Operator dies in skidder rollover

FRA Safety Alerts


Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center – Logger Killed in Endloader Rollover

Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers.  Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services.  This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.  Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.

[i] Adapted from Feller / Buncher Safety Manual, Association of Equipment Manufacturers,

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