12-S-01: Excavator Operator Injured while Pulling Stuck Vehicle





A hunter driving a pickup truck on industrial forestland in the Northeast on a Friday afternoon in early winter got off the woods road, and his truck became stuck in mud. Unable to extricate the truck on his own, the driver left the vehicle over the weekend, returning on Monday to remove it with the help of the operator of a hydraulic excavator from a nearby logging road construction operation. Cold temperatures and heavy snow over the weekend froze the mud around the truck’s wheels.

 Personal Characteristics:



The excavator operator attempted to pull the truck out with a tow chain attached to the truck’s bumper hitch. The excavator and operator were facing the truck during the pull. It is unknown if the excavator windshield was shatter resistant.


The truck was firmly frozen in and surrounded by snow. When the excavator operator put tension on the tow chain, the bumper hitch on the pickup let go, flying directly back towards the excavator, penetrating the windshield, striking the operator in the face. Later, the excavator was used to clear snow and frozen mud from around the truck, freeing it safely.


The operator suffered a broken jaw. It is unknown how much lost time occurred.


• When pulling or towing a vehicle, always ensure that equipment operators or bystanders are not in direct line with the tow chain or in an area where they could be injured if the chain or connection to the vehicle fails.

• When using a tow chain or strap to pull a vehicle, ensure that it is connected to a solid portion of the vehicle, such as the frame, and not to a less solid element that may fail.

• If a vehicle is stuck so solidly that pulling it may jeopardize safety, find another solution for removing the vehicle.

• Impact-resistant windshields should be installed and maintained on all equipment exposed to damaging impacts.


Reviewed by: Joel Swanton, Northeast Region Manager