Log Splitters

Sitting by the fireplace in the camp lodge on a cold evening, attending the closing campfire at the end of your summer camp adventure, or circling ’round the council fire—these can be truly special times for Scouts and Scouters and create memories lasting a lifetime. All these activities require firewood, and sometimes the most effective way to supply it is to use a powered log splitter. But incorrect usage or a moment of inattention or distraction while splitting logs can result in a much different set of memories.

Incident Review #1

At an Order of the Arrow (OA) event, a 15-year-old Scout was assisting an approximately 70-year-old adult in the operation of a gas-powered log splitter by lifting the larger logs onto the splitter. As the Scout placed the last log into position, the adult operator activated the splitter before the youth was clear. The splitter’s ram caught the Scout’s right hand, amputating four fingers.

Key Points

  • While Scouts are helpful, they should leave the operation and assistance with power tools to qualified adults.
  • Personnel must be qualified and capable of using the equipment in a safe manner, including knowing their own physical limitations.
  • Log splitters are designed for single person operation. Other persons watching out for the operator, assisting with log loading, or removing and stacking split logs should only approach under instruction by the operator after the mechanism is disengaged.
  • The adult operator should never actuate the controls until all helpers and bystanders are a safe distance (10 to 20 feet) from the work area.

Incident Review #2

A 17-year-old Scout was working with a hydraulic log splitter. A hydraulic line came loose from the log splitter and sprayed her left foot and calf with hot hydraulic fluid. The Scout sustained minor burns and was treated by the nurse on staff at the camp.

Key Points

  • The Guide to Safe Scouting and many log splitter manuals restrict operation to adults.
  • Be sure to review equipment maintenance records prior to use. If no records are available, reviewing its operation with the owner is key.
  • The risks from hydraulic fluid can include burns as well as penetrating wounds if released under pressure.

“Chainsaws and mechanical log splitters may be authorized for use only by trained individuals over the age of 18, using proper protective gear in accordance with local laws.”— Guide to Safe Scouting

Incident Review #3

A 15-year-old Scout was holding a log on a log splitter. As the log was being split, it bounced, causing the Scout’s hand to shift, and crushed his finger, resulting in the loss of his fingertip.

Key Points

  • Ensure safety checks and age guidelines are followed for all Scouting events.
  • Personal protective equipment recommended for log splitters includes: gloves, long pants and sleeves, steeltoed boots, and eye, head, and hearing protection.
  • No one should attempt to hold a log in position while the ram is engaged. Only the adult operator should be near the equipment during operation, and the operator should be safely positioned as indicated in the operator manual.

“Square the ends of logs to prevent them from riding out of the splitter.”

“Operate log splitters on level surfaces free from slippery, wet, muddy, or icy conditions.”

Discussion Questions

  • How do the Service Project Planning Guidelines and Age Guidelines for Tool Use and Work at Elevations or Excavations help prevent accidents like these?
  • What key pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) are important when utilizing log splitters?
  • How could you use a Safety PAUSE on your next project like this?
  • What lessons have you learned from the Incident Review?
  • How will you apply those lessons the next time your unit, district, council, or OA has a work event involving a log splitter and other power tools?