Driving Change - Article Published in Silviculture Magazine Fall 2011 Issue

Article by Steven Mueller published in the Fall 2011 issue of Silivculture Magazine, www.silviculturemagazine.com

You don’t need a safety consultant to tell you that the greatest risk to silviculture workers is driving. Any tree planter can tell you that. Heading out to camp, riding to work in the crummy, backing up to the reefer, or running to town for supplies; most incidents causing significant loss will likely happen on (or off) the road. Granted, silviculture workers are more likely to suffer injuries due to repetitive stress, or slips, trips and falls. However, the big ticket items - serious injury, fatality, major vehicle damages and costly production loss - are usually due to vehicle incidents.

The personal toll on workers and employers can be immense. I recently spoke to a silviculture contractor whose company experienced a serious incident. “It was the last day of the 2010 season and everyone was stoked. One second of driver distraction later and we had a seriously injured planter. At first, I felt personally responsible and I honestly considered shutting the company down. I’m so relieved that John (not real name) recovered and came back to work this season. After what happened, I wanted to do everything possible to make sure it didn’t happen again. We really beefed up our training and our expectations for drivers and passengers. Everyone takes driving much more seriously now. It’s paid off in better safety as well as lower vehicle damages.”

Keeping employees safe is the right thing to do, but there is also a business incentive. Staying profitable is increasingly tied to reducing vehicle-related costs – injury claims, fuel expenses, vehicle maintenance, repairs, downtime, and etc. Most employers have a basic safety management system in place that includes some driver training, abstract checks, safe driving rules and procedures, maintenance schedules, inspection checklists, and… well, that’s about it. There are often other issues that aren’t covered by employer safety programs but can carry huge risks: • Work crews using company vehicles on days off for shopping, laundry, beer runs, etc.

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 Last Updated: March 6, 2013

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