Natural Resources official says West Virginia tree stand accidents on the rise

Hunters have been involved in a number of accidents this year in West Virginia. A lieutenant with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Section says that nine hunters have suffered life-threatening injuries in hunting platform accidents this season, while one hunter was killed in such an accident. The news has mixed results.

In 2011, 14 people were injured in West Virginia tree stand accident, but in that record year, no fatalities were reported with a fall from a stand. Injuries from falls while hunting, however, reportedly have been on the rise in recent years. Nationwide, falls from tree stands remain the number one cause of hunting-related injuries, according to the natural resources professional.

Understanding the tree stand itself and how to properly use the stand are a primary safety concern for West Virginia hunters. While the stands are a useful tool, a tree stand can pose a serious risk for injury.

Commentators say that hunters should be sure that a tree stand is properly manufactured. It is important to look at the design and safety features of any equipment. But, hidden defects in the design, manufacture or warnings associated with equipment can lead to injury, and potential product liability for manufacturers.

In addition to learning how a tree stand should be properly installed, it is important to keep tree stands, like any safety equipment, properly maintained. Weaknesses in equipment can develop over time. Worn parts should be attended to, or an entire piece of safety equipment should be replaced after wear and tear has created an unsafe condition.

Hunters should know that a tree with weak wood and branches can also pose a hazard. The tree itself must be able to support the hunter, the tree stand and other items carried up to the stand. Similarly, dead wood above a hunter can pose a safety risk if limbs should fall during a hunt. Drowsiness is also a danger on any raised platform. Proper safety harnesses are important devices when a hunter grows tired in the stand.

Most hunters pride themselves on safety, but it is always important to review safety issues each season. Alcohol and medications should be avoided while hunting, and a loaded gun before and after the actual hunt can pose risks to a hunter climbing to and from the stand, or hauling materials.