Swampers: They can reduce hazards of working alone and prove valuable for training / assessing potential new operators

Safety Alert Type: 
South Okanagan / Similkameen region
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
L&B Myers Contracting Ltd.
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

Through fall and early winter this year, southern interior operations were distributed on up to four sites as several summer projects were completed. Some of the work only required one machine and operator but due to the isolation and onset of cold weather, a swamper was requested and funded by the Licensee rep. Recently swampers have often been considered an unnecessary expense but they can solve many problems.

Operators working alone in isolated areas can elevate the risk of work to high, especially in adverse weather. Even when check-in systems are organized it is usually very difficult for a supervisor to provide timely assistance if required. A fall off a slippery track could turn deadly in winter weather if it takes two hours for help to arrive and investigate a missed check in.

Swampers substantially reduce the risk associated with operators working in isolated sites. They can also improve the efficiency of machines working alone by shuttling pickups, doing other work and providing timely assistance to any emergency the operator may encounter.

In this case, the swampers received the basic company safety orientation and emergency response training (fire suppression, first aid, emergency communications). They also learned road and radio use, machine servicing/repairs and basic equipment operation along with their duties in site deactivation and road brushing.

The value of this position became apparent when trying to replace a skidder operator who quit mid-season. No experienced applicants were available so the supervisor moved a swamper into the position. All basic training had been completed so training and assessment involved the machine specific skills only. The new operator was already familiar with all workers, worksites, company standards and expectations and general processes.

The time required getting the worker up to a safe and productive level doing quality work was considerably shorter than if the worker was starting from scratch.

Learnings and Suggestions: 

1. Supervisors should assess each work site for risk before letting operators work alone. Adverse weather may elevate any work to high risk.

2. Supervisors should organize swampers for all work that isn’t low or moderate risk.

For more information on this submitted alert: 

For more information contact: Brian Myers, L&B Myers Contracting Ltd. (250) 809-6708

File attachments
Swampers can reduce hazards of working alone.pdf
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