Alert: wood splitters
Learn about the necessary precautions when working with wood splitters in forestry and farming that can cause serious injury or death.
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Wood splitters are a significant cause of workplace injuries in the forestry, farming, and wholesale sectors. When used in commercial operations many injuries are caused because workers have access to the point of operation. Several critical injuries have been reported to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
Splitters generally utilize a hydraulic cylinder to force a piece of wood between a steel wedge and a plate and are either vertically or horizontally oriented. The hydraulic cylinder travel is controlled by a foot or hand control. In many cases these controls are unshielded allowing unintentional operation, and are located close to the point of operation, which may not prevent workers access to the pinch point. Some newer models are equipped with two hand controls or offer them as optional equipment.
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply and enforce these laws based on the facts they find in the workplace.
Locations and sectors
Splitters are used in industrial workplaces for the production of firewood. For the most part, these would not be found in logging operations, but would be found in workplaces that would fit the definition of a factory under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act).
Workers must not be able to have access to moving parts which my injure them. Wood splitters have exposed pinch point(s) (between the log and the plate and/or the steel wedge) that can endanger a worker, similar to a punch press. In addition to fixed guard solutions that prevent access to the hazard, other solutions may be used. Devices such as interlocked moveable guards, two hand controls, and electronic devices such as light curtains may be used to prevent the workers from accessing the point of operation.
If an operating control(s) are used as a guard (e.g. hand controls, foot pedal) for a splitter not otherwise guarded, they must also meet the requirements of section 28 of the Regulations for Industrial Establishments. This requires the control(s) to be in a location where the safety of the operator is not endangered, be arranged so that they cannot be operated accidentally, and not be made ineffective by tie-down devices or other means.
Where more than one worker is involved in the operation of the machine, additional controls or other safeguards may be required to ensure each worker is protected.
Many splitters are fitted with infeed and outfeed conveyors, which must also be guarded in accordance with sections 24 and 25 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments.
Standards such as CAN/CSA - Z142-02 “Code for Power Press Operation: Health, Safety, and Guarding Requirements” should be consulted to determine the adequacy of guarding.
Regulation for Industrial Establishments – Sections 24, 25, 26, 28, and 76.