Logging on steep slopes calls for new safety solutions

Photo credit: FP Innovations

Photo credit: FPInnovations

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise… here in BC, where new machines and technology are increasingly being used for harvesting trees on steep slopes.

BC companies have been importing steep slope logging machinery for the past several years, and you can read more about this in the Business In Vancouver article “Timber supply crunch drives loggers to more dangerous terrain.”

In 2016, as I write this post, there are eight or more steep slope machines operating in BC, says FPInnovations, a not-for-profit organization that is researching and developing technology for harvesting and supporting Canada’s forest sector.

To learn more about the safety aspect of these new machines and methods, I phoned WorkSafeBC forest industry specialist Carole Savage.

“The average age of a faller in BC is 59 years old. This means that we are going to run into a shortfall of manual fallers within the next decade as fallers retire. So its a great time to be looking at different ways to access wood fibre,” Carole said.

“Steep slope machinery – when used with the proper risk assessments, procedures, and with qualified workers – can help us to access wood supply on steep inclines safely and efficiently. It also helps to reduce the exposure to fallers using saws on steep slopes and the potential for injury.”

More than one-quarter of timber in the annual allowable cut is on steep slopes, says FPInnovations, who created its Steep Slope Initiative – a five-year research and development plan for identifying best practices for improving worker safety while accessing timber, funded by WorkSafeBC.

Another resource comes from the BC Forest Safety Council. Its Steep Slope Logging Resource Package includes:

* Risk Assessment and Site Pre-Work Tool
* Safe Work Practices for Steep Slope Operations
* Steep Slope Planning and Operational Responsibilities
* Support Forms and Documents

Available soon from WorkSafeBC is a publication that will help to explain the WorkSafeBC requirements for bringing mobile logging equipment into British Columbia – now in the final stages of production, as I write this post.

This new guide was written after WorkSafeBC received questions from employers, licensees, equipment manufacturers, and suppliers interested in buying the new equipment and bringing it into Canada, Carole said.


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