The Forest Safety Ombudsman was created as the means for safety issues to be raised and discussed in as free and open a manner as possible. The Ombudsman provides an impartial, confidential and timely voice within the sector as it is recognized that at times there may be concerns with possible adverse repercussions to those raising the issues. As well, the relative inequality of size and influence of parties within the sector may make the raising and discussion of safety issues difficult.
A short distance before entering the highway system, Keith turns into the pull-out and does the necessary walk-around inspection of his truck and load – tighten and secure wrappers, check the tires, wheels and nuts, check between all duals, confirm electrical and hitch connections, clean the lights, etc. Keith has a well-practiced check system. Nine times out of ten there is nothing unusual to see, but he prefers noticing and correcting little things before they become big problems at 90 km/hr. Plus, the pit stop gives him a mental break and he is able to stretch his back, arms and legs. This gets his blood flowing and improves his alertness for the rest of the trip to town.
Today, Keith is particularly glad to have checked his load – he finds a hard-hat sized rock half-cocked and ready to fall out of his load at the next frost heave.
Translation: Log truck drivers must exercise diligence in inspecting their trucks and loads prior to getting on the road.
Jim and Doug had been working in this valley for about a month. They snowmobiled into the site regularly and had it down. But now there was a new guy with them and they had to get him up to speed.
Translation: Experienced workers need to communicate the job and the assessed hazards specific to this valley to the new worker.
Mark was driving the lowbed, moving the yarder up the main haul road to the next block. Tim was coming down the road with his first load of the day.
Tim: “Good Morning Mark, I scouted that new road yesterday, the hill is steeper than it looks.”
Translation: This is only my second week hauling logs and I need all the friends I can get on these roads. I’m the new guy around here but I know enough that he is going to have a tough time with that hill I saw yesterday.
Mark: “Thanks Tim. Watch the 22 corner, it’s slick this morning.”
Translation: Tim is pretty green but he looks like he’s going to be a good driver, once he gets some experience. The corner at 22 km is tricky; it doesn’t look too bad at first and then you realize you’re going too fast. I’ve seen a couple of trucks not make it and go over the bank.
Steve had just received the map and pre-work information for their latest logging block. Tomorrow was Saturday and he could scout the block and do some hunting at the same time. It would be a good opportunity to see if the block roads were in the right location and if he was lucky, find a moose.
Steve’s boss didn’t mind him using the company pickup for the Saturday work/hunting trip. It had all the road channels in the radio and the satellite phone to use if he needed a hand. His boss did insist that he use the call in procedures just like any other work day.
Steve arrived at the block at dawn, called in and walked all the roads and boundaries. He knew his high-vis hardhat and vest weren’t going to help his hunting but he felt it was important to wear them. He took a GPS waypoint at his pickup; he didn’t want to waste any time getting back to his truck if he got something.
In the forest industry we are exposed to the exhaust from diesel engines on a regular basis. There is increased concern that this exhaust causes lung cancer and should be avoided. A recent study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer “classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.”
Diesel exhaust contains a mixture of different gases and particles. Some of the gases include nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and carbon monoxide which are all harmful. The particles include metals like nickel and arsenic which are known to cause cancer. Diesel exhaust contains 20 times more particles than gasoline exhaust and these particles are small enough that they can be directly inhaled into the lungs.
As the supervisor for the other three log trucks in the company, Tim had a lot on his plate. In addition to hauling logs, he had to make sure the other trucks were maintained and in good shape. It was hard to keep drivers if their rigs were constantly breaking down. It seemed like his cell phone was constantly ringing with a report of a breakdown or a question from the rookie about the paperwork that needed to be done. Tim knew that he couldn’t safely drive his truck and talk on his phone at the same time so he spent at least an hour each day pulled over and answering his messages. It was getting difficult to make his three trips!
His wife bought him a smart phone for his birthday and Tim was thinking that texting might be the answer to his problem. His drivers all knew how to text and it might be a more efficient way to communicate.
It didn’t take long for Tim to realize that texting was more efficient but also more distracting. He put his phone away in the glove box and decided he needed to talk to the owner about helping out with some of his workload.
In 2009, a study was done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute which focused on the effects of distracted driving on truck drivers. The Institute was able to track where drivers were looking when they were driving safely and just before they were involved in a crash or near crash. The results of this study are:
Mike and Dave had put in lots of hours together in the 206 Jet Ranger. Accessing tough locations, slinging loads, or bucketing water on fires; they had learned to work together safely and efficiently.
Mike was laying out a block and he planned for Dave to pick him up at a clearing they had identified on their morning flight. Just to be sure, Mike and Dave both took GPS waypoints of the pick-up location before he was dropped off.
The layout went faster than anticipated and Mike ended up at the clearing with some time to spare. The clearing looked tight for space now that he was on the ground so he got out his ax and cut down the alder that might be in the way of the tail rotor.
As the helicopter approached the clearing, Dave radioed about a storm that was quickly closing in. As Dave was landing, Mike kept an eye on the tail rotor for him to make sure it didn’t hit any brush or slash.
Tim and his son got into the welding truck for the drive to the site where Brown’s Logging had spent most of the summer. Bill Brown’s feller buncher had lots of hours on it and it was time to do some welding and reinforcing on the buncher head. Tim had been doing Bill’s welding for at least 20 years and knew the equipment and loggers well.
The buncher was parked beside the main road and Tim could see that the operator and the mechanic had already started to get it ready for the welding. Knowing that Bill didn’t want to have his machines down for very long, Tim parked the welding truck and got right to work, unpacking tools and steel. Tim did a quick walk around of the buncher, sized up the steel needed and his son got to work with the cutting torch.
Break-up was finally here, it was time to shift gears and start thinking about the upcoming summer season. It was Dave’s first day back after a month of working the night shift. Although he was tired, he had an easy day ahead of him- all he had to do was deliver some parts out to camp.
There was little traffic on the roads and Dave had driven to the camp at least a thousand times. He had to remind himself to pay attention as he drove on auto-pilot around the sharp curves. He took his eyes off the road to find his coffee and when he looked up - half the road was gone! He slammed on the brakes; stopping just in time to avoid driving into the hole. Wow, he thought, I’ve seen culverts wash out before but nothing like this!
He called the office to report the problem, radioed a warning to the other road users and marked the wash-out for other drivers to avoid.
com·pla·cen·cy: A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger or trouble.
Phil took a quick look at the skidder tires stacked on the side of the road. It had just finished snowing and the sun was coming out. Perfect, thought Phil, he had been working in the snow and cold all week. Some sun will be nice. The spot on the road was just wide enough to change the tires on the skidder without being in the way of passing trucks. Phil had just turned his back when the top tire slipped off the stack and started to roll down the road. Phil saw the movement and reacted quickly. The tire was rolling towards the shop truck but he felt he could easily reach it and knock it over before it hit.
However, as he ran towards the tire, he slipped on the snowy road and his legs went underneath it.
As a worker stepped away from his snowmobile, he fell in a deep tree well of a small balsam. The tree well had over 6 feet of snow depth. The fallen worker’s head was below the level of his co-worker’s feet on top of the snow.
The co-worker was able to help the worker by carefully digging enough snow away from the worker and then using the snowmobile, which was on packed ground, as a base of support for pulling the worker out. No injuries occurred.
Tree wells form when the branches of the tree shelter the area surrounding the tree trunk from snowfall. Thus a pocket of air or loose snow can form in the vicinity of the trunk. The risk of encountering a tree well is greatest during and immediately following a heavy snowstorm.
Low hanging branches further contribute to forming a tree well, as they efficiently shelter the area surrounding the trunk. It is a potential risk with trees in deep snow no matter the diameter of the tree. Wells can also occur near rocks, along streams and in heavy regen with snow press.
When a person falls into a tree-well, it’s incredibly difficult to climb back out. The loose snow can prevent the person from breathing and result in suffocation by snow.
The surveyor had just finished throwing her last plot of the day when the wind picked up. She marked the plot center and pocketed her marker. The cool fall wind, which had been consistent all day now suddenly picked up as the clouds moved in threatening rain or snow. ‘Perfect timing’ she thought as she turned and began picking her way through the block back to the truck. Now that it was late October, her boss wanted the crew to be off the bush roads before dark. At this time of year daylight faded quickly and the area was prone to sudden weather changes. The radio crackled to life “You planning on spending the night? Let’s go!” From high on the block she could see her partner Sam was already back at the truck. “Yeah, yeah I’m coming. Looks like just in time too. I think it might snow.” She replied. There was a brief pause then Sam was back on “Yeah, I couldn’t hear any of that with the wind. Just hurry up”
She picked her way down the hill and headed towards where the truck was parked at the block entrance. Sam was sitting on the tailgate as she approached. She reached the top of the embankment and started down to the road when a sharp snap caught her attention. Turning to face the treeline she saw a spruce branch had broken free and was sailing towards her. She ducked instinctively as the branch swept past and landed heavily on the road between her and Sam. “Holy geez!” Sam exclaimed “Let’s get out of here before the rest of the tree comes down too!”
Overhead hazards are an issue for all forestry workers - whether you are a field tech working alongside a retention patch, a log hauler removing wrappers from a load or an equipment operator leaving the cab to perform an inspection.
He had gotten an early start that morning and hoped to avoid the heavy traffic the 600 Road had seen that week. It would be a long day of driving since there were a couple of hours between each of the blocks he planned to visit. He started to mentally run through the list of blocks and was reminded he had to check in with the tire shop when he got back to town and while he was at it he should double check on the parts they had ordered for the buncher. Slowing for a corner, he called his kilometers as a loaded logging truck appeared around the bend. ‘Better move a little further off the road’ he thought as he maneuvered the truck towards the shoulder. Nothing happened. He had no steering control. He gritted his teeth as the truck veered right and headed for the ditch, bouncing roughly off the road. He rolled to a stop and climbed out shaken.
“Hey man, are you ok?” It was the logging truck driver, who had seen him go off the road and stopped. “Yeah, I’m alright I guess. I just don’t know what happened. One minute I was fine, the next I couldn’t steer worth nothin’. ” The truck driver pointed to the front end of the truck, “Well that could be why” The far side tire was splayed off to the right while the left one pointed straight ahead. “Looks like a tie rod failure. Happened to another guy just last week up the Huckleberry. They just don’t make ‘em the way they used to.”
Our crew trucks take a beating by putting in a lot of miles on rough bush roads or difficult access to blocks which can put additional stress on the components and lead to an unexpected failure.
Cable yarding is a common practice in British Columbia forests, particularly in coastal operations where it is estimated that 70% of the harvest is by cable yarding. In the Interior where mountainous terrain is common, operations use cable yarding as an alternative to ground based systems.
While there are nearly as many types of yarding configurations as there are trees in the forest, a yarder tip over is a common risk for all.
Because of the enormous tension heavy loads place on the yarder, tree’s and anchors; cable yarding failures are very dangerous. When a tailhold tree or stump fails it can destabilize the yarder. Yarders can weigh up to 120 tonnes and may seem incredibly steady but the forces applied when pulling a turn of logs, tensioning guylines or operating from an unstable surface can easily topple this equipment.
A yarder tip over often results in serious injury or death.
A bear sighting is one of the benefits of working in the bush. Knowing how to respond to an encounter will help to keep you safe when traveling on foot through the forest. In two recently posted safety alerts forestry workers in British Columbia encountered their furry co-workers (and we aren’t talking about those with play-off beards!) and used their knowledge and the company safe work practices to avoid an incident.
Four doors slammed, the five tired and hungry surveying crew members buckled up for the drive home. One of the passengers in the rear drummed on the seat in front of him “Let’s go man, the puck drops at 7. The Canucks are going to win it tonight and I want to watch the whole thing!” The crew started discussing the upcoming game as the driver fired up the F350 and started the two hour drive back to town. As the drive wore on the conversation in the cab lagged and one by one the crew fell asleep.
In 2007 the industry suffered a fatality in which an equipment operator was killed after suffering head trauma following a rollover. In 2010 a number of incidents reported to the BCFSC also mentioned that loose material inside the vehicle or cab contributed to additional injuries to the occupant.
When a vehicle or piece of equipment is being operated under normal conditions the unsecured loads may present a minimal hazard. However, in a rollover situation these loads can make a dangerous incident deadly.
Rollovers are more likely to happen on a gravel road than on paved surfaces. Since the majority of forestry work requires driving on resource roads, extra care is required.
It was a routine top up of fluids. The crews had been going hard and were nearing the end of a shift and the end of the week. At 3:30am the Skidder operator readied himself to face the cold, he was tired from the pace of the week and the -30C weather was an unwelcome companion as he grabbed a can of hydraulic fluid and stepped out of the warm cab.
The Skidder had plenty of handholds and, with 10 + years of experience, the operator was careful to maintain 3 points of contact as he hauled himself up the machine. When the maintenance was completed, he climbed back down. As he took the last step down onto the blade he turned and released his hand hold. There was very little traction on the last step and in an instant, his feet came out from underneath and he fell backwards, striking his back on the lowered blade and breaking several ribs. A processor operator working nearby witnessed the fall and alerted the rest of the crew for help.
Everyone wipes out now and then…
Those clumsy guys are the only ones who have any injuries…
It’s the bush, falling is a fact of life out here!
On a cold morning in December a worker climbed into the cab of a John Deere processor in the South eastern part of the province. The thermometer read -22C, it was early morning and Christmas was a few short days away. The worker had completed an inspection of the equipment and started work for the day. He was working through the timber, multi-stemming, so he rotated the head backwards for better visibility, at this point it was thought the chain got pinched among the tops and broke. Read more >>
It was December 21st, 2009; and the whole crew was looking forward to taking a few days off to celebrate Christmas. A feller buncher operator was starting to cut the boundary on a new block. Just above the road a few trees dotted a short steep pitch of frozen ground that was covered with a light skiff of snow. The existing ice lugs on the buncher’s tracks were getting worn down and didn’t really have enough depth to dig in through the duff. The operator considered leaving the few trees for a hand faller, or coming back later once the welder was able to “cork up” his machine. Read more >>
For many employers, crew transportation to and from forestry worksites is likely the most hazardous part of their operations. During the 2010 tree planting season, several silviculture companies experienced significant motor vehicle accidents. Each incident possessed significant potential for serious losses or fatalities. Read more >>
A number of recent reports highlight the risk of incidents involving mobile equipment upsets or “flop-overs.” In some cases, what might have seemed relatively minor events turned serious when equipment operators couldn’t get out of their machine to safety.
Most pieces of mobile equipment have at least two ways to get out of the cab when there is an emergency – the main door to the cab and a secondary escape hatch, often on the roof. But what happens when the both the main door and the escape hatch don’t work as intended? Read more >>
Being in the bight is a way of saying that where a worker is located exposes them to risk. Staying in the clear, or avoiding the bight, is important to continually monitor. Over time, workers can become complacent with their surroundings or tasks, and that can result in increased risk.
Being careful to make sure you and your co-workers are always in the clear is necessary to ensure everyone can complete their tasks and make it home safely at the end of the shift. Read more >>
Approximately one third of all tree planting and cone picking claims submitted to WSBC from 1997 to 2001 were classified as overexertion or repetitive motion injuries. Silviculture workers such as tree planters are predisposed to this type of injury because of the repetitive nature of their work. Others who may benefit from the information in this alert include firefighters, surveyors, nursery workers, equipment operators, manual tree fallers and others whose jobs involve repeated physical motion. Read more >>
So far, 2010 has been a bad year for trucker safety. To date, there have been three reported fatalities, and, with much of the year still ahead, anyone involved in hauling logs or other material or equipment on resource roads needs to take note. Read more >>
The first step in worker safety is to identify hazards and risks. Continual and effective risk assessments are part of staying safe on and off the job. RADAR is a safety process developed in the forest industry Read more>>
Every year in BC, avalanches cause injuries and death, usually to recreational backcountry users, but sometimes to forestry workers. In November 2009 a Coroner’s Death Review Panel was convened to examine a number of avalanche-related deaths. The panel’s report highlighted the importance of improving “... Read more>>
Black ice can send even the most experienced driver sliding on what seems like a dry road. The road looks bare, so the driver sees no reason, literally, to avoid normal driving speeds. Black ice is nearly invisible. It develops as a sheet on road surfaces when snow melts and freezes again, or when rain Read more >>
Forestry employers and workers can find information and resources to help beat seasonal hazards in the Council's online Winter Safety Package. It delivers information on safety issues involving Workers, Transportation, Machinery and Facilities. Read more >>
If your company is returning to work after being inactive for an extended time, it's important to review your safety policies and procedures to ensure that you meet SAFE Company requirements as well as WorkSafeBC regulations. This includes first aid, which depends on Read more >>
The annual freeze-up is taking hold across most of the province, and timber harvesting and hauling is resuming on resource roads and bridges. As traffic volumes build Read more >>
British Columbia is a vast province with varied resource road systems. Their surfaces range from solid rock to frozen muskeg, with just about everything in between. But despite the differences, all resource roads have one thing in common: they can be extremely dangerous. Read more >>
Continuing our series on transportation of workers, this alert focuses on aircraft. There are two options: fixed-wing aircraft and rotary-wing aircraft. Many of the same safety rules and regulations apply to both types of aircraft, although each type has different capabilities Read more >>
Many workers in the forest industry work on, or are transported to and from work on water. This includes workers as passengers in crew boats, and workers being transported in vehicles on barges. Tragically, too many workers in British Columbia have lost their lives as a result of Read more >>
There have been too many fatalities and serious injuries in the forest industry as a result of a failure to effectively immobilize equipment. Between 2006 and 2008 there were a total of 44 fatalities in harvesting. 20 % of these Read more>>
Fire season is here. Low snow packs and a build-up of fuel on the forest floor are contributing factors in what has already been a busy year for forest fires. Since April, provincial fire crews have responded to 335 fires, 96 per cent of which were caused by people. Read more >>
In the next few months up to 7,000 seasonal silviculture workers will start travelling on roads and working on sites around the province. Tragically in 2008, three silviculture field workers died on the job. The start of BC’s Read more >>
A certified faller with several years of experience was falling trees along a highway with the assistance of an excavator. The faller and the excavator operator were using the excavator’s rake to control and guide the felled trees to the ground. During the process of falling a 14” alder Read more >>