Seeking safety for steep slope logging

Steep slope logging is a leading source of injuries in forestry. Industry has identified some best practices to better protect workers on this terrain. 

A feller buncher at work. Photo credit: FP Innovations

In 2017, a forestry worker died in Northern B.C. while using a feller buncher to cut timber on a steep slope. He was trapped inside the machine after it tipped over and caught fire. My heart goes out to the many people touched by this tragic loss.

The logging done on steep slopes accounts for more than a quarter of all logs harvested in B.C., according to FPInnovations, creators of the Steep Slope Initiative. It’s also one of the leading sources of injuries and fatalities in forestry.

Safety best practices for steep slope logging

Budd Phillips, a WorkSafeBC manager of Prevention Field Services, describes this tragic incident in his article Make Logging Safer, published in OHS Canada’s online magazine in February 2018. In his article, he describes the following safety recommendations from the WorkSafeBC Forest Industry Advisory Group:

  • Have a written plan for checking in with people working alone or in isolation
  • Consider the potential for machine rollover; then identify, eliminate, and control this hazard
  • Ensure that every piece of mobile equipment has an alternative means of escape that is clearly marked inside and outside the cab
  • Store rescue equipment so it can be accessed easily – ideally, attached to the machine itself

Make sure to read the article for more details about each of these safety best practices.

I contacted Budd to find out if there had been any updates since the article was published. One thing he mentioned was the new rescue tools manufacturers are putting on harvesting machines. People can use the tools to cut into the cab of a machine if it rolls over and someone is trapped inside. He also said WorkSafeBC is looking at revising Part 16: Mobile Equipment of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

Behind every statistic is a grieving family, crew, community

In his article, Budd mentioned what it’s like for the people left behind after such a tragic fatality. He shared more about this when I spoke with him:

“That’s part of the statistic we often forget about – especially when they’re tragic circumstances like this. Behind every statistic we have on these injuries and these fatalities, there’s a family that has been devastatingly impacted. They’re having to deal with the grief and the other things of trying to rebuild their lives after having lost someone in a very unexpected manner.”

Please see my post Logging on steep slopes calls for new safety solutions for more information about the work of FPInnovations and the steep slope resource package from the BC Forest Safety Council.

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