Tips for safe operation of a track skidder

Track skidder operators can avoid injury by taking into account the proper safety precautions and preparations.

A track skidder is primarily used in the forestry industry for logging operations. It is a heavy machine, similar to a tractor, that is able to transfer cut trees to a North Carolina landing site - a process referred to as skidding. The weight of a track skidder is situated in a forward-leaning position, and the track roller frame is more extended than other heavy vehicles that utilize a track roller system. This enables track skidders to work well where terrain is softer, and especially in a mountainous setting. However, due to their size, precautions are needed when workers are operating one.

Use precautions

Caterpillar Inc., a company that manufactures track skidders, advises that track skidder operators adhere to the following safety procedures at all times:

  • When starting the machine, operators should prohibit any passengers either outside or in the cab itself. They should also make sure there is no-one standing too close.
  • Always use the operator's manual as a reference when unsure of facts regarding the machine itself.
  • Each machine has an operating capacity that is deemed safe. Operators should make sure to be aware of this number and stay within the limits.
  • When using a track skidder, a seatbelt should always be worn.
  • Moving parts can pose a danger. Arms, feet, hands, and clothing should be kept at a safe distance to avoid injury on the job.
  • Loose clothing is not safe. Jewelry should also be removed. Long hair should be tied back. In addition, all proper personal protective equipment should be worn.

Additionally, operators should understand that the controls of a machine are not safe handholds. Three points should always remain in contact when dismounting and mounting a machine. The three-point method means either one foot and both hands, or one hand and both feet.

Know the limits

While these heavy vehicles are designed to be able to function well in the environments they are used in, it is still important that they are not operated in adverse conditions as injury could result. The U.S. government's Forest and Rangelands considers adverse slopes to be those of a 10 percent grade for wheeled skidders, and a 15 percent grade for tracked skidders.

Skidders are often used to drag loads downhill. For wheeled skidders, a favorable grade is 45 percent, and for tracked skidders, that grade is 50 percent. Soil conditions should always be taken into account, however. For instance, in wet soil conditions, flotation tires or dual tires will work best.

Even when working within advised safety procedures, there is still the possibility of injury when using a track skidder. Being injured can incur costly medical expenses and lead to lost time that could be spent on the job. Those suffering from injuries on the job have a right to pursue workers' compensation. If you have questions regarding a potential worker's compensation case, please contact John Ayers or Christian Ayers at (704) 377-5050.