It is not uncommon to hear about hunting injuries involving weaponry, but most hunters do not expect to be seriously injured while using their tree stand. Below are some of the common dangers of tree stand use, and the additional dangers of defective stands, which are all too common in the tree stand industry.
Falling is the number one risk when using a tree stand. Falls happen for a host of reasons. Some are the fault of the hunter, but many others are the fault of the tree stand itself. Whenever a hunter sits on a tiny platform, suspended only by straps, leverage, and gravity, falling presents an undeniable risk. Moreover, these falls can occur from as high as 15 to 20 feet in the air, frequently resulting in injuries.
Many tree stands are manufactured in factories that do not allow ergonomic or environmental testing. Because of this, tree stands do not stand up against environmental conditions or variations in assembly. In addition, manufacturers do almost nothing to protect the straps against the degrading effects of the environment, particularly the damaging effect of ultraviolet radiation (i.e., sunlight).
Poor Quality Parts
Tree stands that are not made with high quality materials are far more likely to fail and cause serious injuries to their users. Ladder stands may be frequently manufactured with poor quality metal and have dimensions not suitable for their intended use. These factors give the hunter little margin for error if there are even slight oversights in erection and maintenance.
Further, ladder stands are held to the tree by straps, which are ratcheted to the tree to pull it tight. Sawtooth braces dig slightly into the tree, and, along with the force of gravity and the straps, keep it from slipping down the tree. Failures from these polypropylene straps are common, and unfortunately, tree stand manufacturers do little to inform a user on how to evaluate their condition.
Unclear or Insufficient Labeling
Clear instructions are important for any product, but when said product runs the risk of seriously injuring its users, clear instructions are absolutely vital. Tree stands are no exception when it comes to the dangers of insufficient labeling or instructions.
Every stand comes labeled with a weight limit, but their wording can be confusing (and therefore, dangerous). A two-man ladder stand, for example, is simply advertised as “two-man,” often lacking a specific numerical limit for the two potential users.
Tree stand manufacturers routinely advise hunters to wear safety harnesses in the event of falls. When a hunter falls from the stand, the harness will catch them and allow them to step back onto the stand. However, the harnesses are primarily designed to arrest a fall from the stand and are not meant as protection when the stand itself collapses.
In the case of a collapsed tree stand, safety harnesses will simply suspend the hunter in midair. However, prolonged suspension causes blood to pool in the feet and legs, pulling life-giving blood from the vital organs. Death from suspension trauma can occur in as little as 30 minutes.
There is little recognition in the tree stand industry that devastating and life-threatening conditions can arise from the harnesses. While it is simplistic to say the harnesses prevent a fall and impact with the ground, separate, lethal risks have been documented from the use of harnesses.
While the use of safety harnesses is a wise choice. The collapse of a defective stand is primarily the responsibility of the tree stand manufacturer.