A Division Supervisor narrowly escapes injury when his truck is struck by a tree during felling operations.
In this situation, a tactical pause was certainly in order and was used—in multiple ways. The tac-pause implemented in relation to the tree felling operation (halting tree felling work) is the more traditional application. The innovative application recounted here is the “mental health” tac-pause for the person who just experienced a serious close call. The mental health version is providing a bit of time, space, and support to assure we have our “head back in the game”. This certainly happens on a small scale all the time, but it is not often described in detail in incident reports. This Rough Patch Complex Tree Strikes Vehicle RLS does describe how this was carried out and supported at the IMT level.
If you read the RLS you may notice that while this particular topic is not listed in the actual “Lessons” section, it is featured in the “Incident Narrative” description of what took place.
Thirty pieces of various heavy equipment and one Falling Module (FMOD) were assigned to Division Bravo, with only one Heavy Equipment Boss and a Division Supervisor (DIVS). The Division spanned more than 20 miles on winding mountain roads.
A day or two before the tree felling incident, briefing times and locations had changed. This continued to cause some confusion among the numerous resources assigned to Div. Bravo. Some resources missed morning briefings. Overall, operations began to feel “a little disjointed and not well communicated.” Adding to this confusion, the FMOD involved in the tree felling incident had to leave the line unexpectedly the day prior to the incident to address a family emergency.
Intent on tying-in with the FMOD to determine their “headspace” and ensure good communication, Div. Bravo left ICP after briefing on August 30—the day of the tree felling incident—to tie-in with the FMOD first thing that morning, reaching their location around 0900. That’s when Div. Bravo called the FMOD on the radio to announce his presence in the area. The FMOD answered, stating he was clear to drive up the road until he reached their truck, which he was sure to see as it was blocking the roadway and was the only truck in the area.
“As I approached their vehicle, I stopped just 10 yards behind their truck and began to park,” informs Div. Bravo. “I caught a slight movement out of the corner of my eye up the hill from me on the driver’s side. Shock ran through me as I turned my head to see a large tree falling straight at me. I thought it was going to T-bone the cab of my truck.”
Div. Bravo continues: “Immediately opening the door, I ran toward the rear of my vehicle as the tree impacted the truck. The upper portion of the tree caused damage to the hood, windshield, and driver’s side of the vehicle.”
The driver’s side door was left open as Div. Bravo fled. The door was now riddled with dents and damage caused by exploding tree parts that shot shrapnel in all directions. The door left open may have unintentionally acted as a shield and prevented Div. Bravo from being seriously injured by flying debris.
The tree had fallen 90 degrees off the intended lay due to rotten wood fiber along the length of the hinge and a back-cut that broke apart. The extensive rot present on the back of the tree had not previously been detected. As the dead snag swept through the canopy of surrounding trees, large green branches broke free and became part of the debris impacting the vehicle and roadway below.
Through the opening cleared by the falling tree, the road and proximity of Div. Bravo could now be clearly observed from the felled tree stump. The Sawyer at the stump yelled down the hill: “How’s it going?” Div. Bravo replied: “NOT GOOD!”
The FMOD was almost as surprised as Div. Bravo by the event that had just taken place. All involved were in a mild state of shock.
At this point, falling operations were halted, Bravo/Charlie Safety Officer and Branch Director were notified and arrived on scene shortly afterwards.
Potential Severity of Close-Call Begins to Sink In
Although initially Div. Bravo was a little shaken by the event, he felt mostly unaffected immediately after the accident. It was not until driving the damaged truck on the long trip back to ICP while peering through the now shattered windshield that the severity of the close-call really began to sink in.
“Having kids now really made it all real. I’ve had previous near-death experiences in my life that didn’t bother me as bad as this one did.”Division Bravo
It was mutually decided by Div. Bravo and the IMT that he would take a day off from his duties on the line to allow time for him to regain his composure as he worked through what had just occurred. When he returned to work after this tactical pause, he was shadowed by another qualified Division Supervisor until he decided that he was ready and had “his head back in the game”.
The tactical pause can be helpful in a variety of situations — make sure to use it.
We all know the Tactical Pause in an operational context, but we don’t often see it used in mental/emotional health application. Trauma responses are not predictable, the length of time and level of support needed will vary from person to person and situation—allow for the differences. #usethelessons
Read the full report for more context and additional lessons: