Associated Oregon Loggers, Inc.
2015 Madrona Avenue, Salem, OR
Continuous Improvement in Safety
Continuous Improvement in Safety Image

Contents

Introduction
Continuous Improvement & Innovation
Top Area of Continuous Improvement
Employee Safety
Safety First Priority
Why is Logging Dangerous?
Benefits that Diminish Hazards
History of Oregon Forest Safety Laws
About Oregon Forest Safety Rules

Introduction

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Impressive advances in technology over the last century have changed harvesting and forestry operations at a lightning fast pace. Continuous improvement in forest engineering and techniques helps meet America’s ever-increasing demand for forest products, improves its ecological performance, and most certainly has raised worker safety. The sophistication of harvesting today is a surprise to most people. Forestry work is safer and provides more rewarding occupations for those wanting the challenges of an outdoor workplace.

Modern logging equipment can now process an entire tree into log lengths in just a few quick motions, thereby improving safety, saving time, enhancing quality, and reducing impacts on the environment. Many forest jobs are within the comfort & safety of an enclosed cab operating a machine that processes trees or handles forest materials. Today’s machines are purpose-built to be safer, more efficient and have lower site impacts. Computer systems and electronic controls in today’s mechanized forest machinery, produce optimized performance, use less energy, keep a clean environment and recover more wood. Much of this innovation results from skilled loggers using safe practices; they are skilled trade-workers who operate up-to-date equipment on-the-ground to continually improve methods.

Today’s forest operation is amazing compared to yesteryear’s Paul Bunyan. Innovations in logging and forestry methods combine with science to improve techniques for safe work, low-impact harvesting, keeping forests healthy, well-designed roads, protecting streams, and enhancing wildlife habitat. The latest technologies make safe workplaces and sustainable forestry possible during harvesting, roading, and product transportation. The growing and harvesting of trees has become an attractive occupation because of its safe performance, environmental rewards, and outdoor setting that brings weekly variety.

Continuous Improvement & Innovation

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Innovation to make forest operations and production safer and more efficient is a way of life for the forest contracting business. As most forest management operations in Oregon forestlands since the 1970’s have been conducted by independent contractors, these forestry and logging companies have decades of history of continuous improvement. Forest operators—including loggers—are improving their mobile working conditions, their processes, and the high-tech machinery purpose-built to manage forests for ever-increasing landowner objectives. Superior forest management by forest operators have innovated in the following ways that can enhance safety performance:

  • Worker safety & health programs
  • Employee training includes safety
  • New employee screening & training
  • Drug-free workplace
  • Health & wellness programs
  • Safety-based compensation
  • Work-alone safe procedures
  • Technology innovation continues
  • Enhanced mechanization of work
  • Computer aided systems & power
  • State-of-the art power technology
  • Improved production & quality
  • 1st Aid/CPR, emergency evacuation plans
  • Driving safety programs
  • Communication system advances
  • Environmental protection standards
  • Integrated management prescriptions
  • Process/methods improvement
  • Purpose-built equipment
  • Right-time delivery
  • Greater skilled trades experience

Logging Safety...Top Area of Continuous Improvement

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The on-going improvement of Oregon forest and logging safety performance is a collective outcome of keeping safety & health programs a top priority for Oregon loggers and other forest operators. Safety programs are available through a host of private organizations and government agencies, many of which work in cooperation with loggers and logging contractors to promote safety awareness and continuously improve safety & health performance on-the job. Oregon’s forest sector has a decades-long history of continuous improvement in logging safety, fostered by the following sources or factors:

Primary Sources

  1. Oregon Safety Laws – effective worker safety agencies, OR-OSHA and SAIF WC
  2. Related State-Federal Laws – BOLI; ODOT; DOGAMI; OEM; US-DOT; US-MSHA
  3. Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division (OR-OSHA) – practical safety programs
  4. State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF Corp.) – effective WC programs
  5. Associated Oregon Loggers/SAIF Partnership (AOL) – current Safety & WC programs
  6. Employer/Logging Business Safety Programs – self-determined forestry employer safety programs to assure safe practices, performance, and business reputation
  7. Oregon Professional Logger Program (OPL) – continuing education, including safety
  8. Forest Landowner Safety Programs – purchaser contract-specified safety requirements

Secondary Sources

  1. Consulting Safety Services – private safety & health consultants provide services
  2. Business-Driven Incentives – businesses motivated to comply with OR-OSHA, WC, etc.
  3. Equipment Manufacturers -- improved technology providing safer & healthier operation
  4. Equipment Service -- improved repair & service to better worker safety & health
  5. Process/Technology Improvement – collaboration of operators, equipment makers, landowners, research institutions, and agencies
  6. Oregon Professional Logger Program (OPL) – continuing education, including safety
  7. Forest Certification Programs (SFI, ATFS, FSC) –wood supplier standards, incl. safety
  8. Oregon Legislature – lawmaker support for balanced safety focus among business-government-workers
  9. State and Federal Forest Management Laws – effective forest practices rules and forestry prescriptions that foster safe operations

Employee Safety

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Because logging and forestry work can be a hazardous occupation with potential for injuries, forest employers typically implement thorough safety & health programs for their work crews. A prospective forestry employee can expect each job to include a rigorous safety program, such as the following:

  • New employee orientation
  • Basic job training, includes safety practices
  • Safe work performance standards & training
  • Supervision by a competent person
  • Drug-free workplace policy
  • Health & wellness programs
  • Safety-based compensation
  • Periodic tailgate safety meetings
  • Advanced on-the-job training
  • Progressive job experience
  • Increasing responsibility

Most forestry and logging jobs may require specific prior experience, which includes safety & health elements. For example, job applicants may have to demonstrate such knowledge, skills or abilities in: a safe work history, good driving record, drug screening, specialized heavy equipment operation, commercial driver’s license, driver’s license, or forest/farm experience

Safety-First Priority in Dangerous Logging Industry

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Logging is a hazardous occupation with more frequent or serious injuries and fatalities than other industries. Improving forest operations and production to make work safer is a way of life for the forest contracting business—because there are real dangers involved in logging operations. Most every aspect of forestry innovation involves a component of hazard reduction for the forest worker. Safety continues as the first priority for Oregon forestry workplaces and worker activities. And this continuous priority has resulted in great improvements made since 1970 at reducing logging injuries and fatalities.

For most of us, we seldom think about our employment hazards. Usually, the most dangerous daily activity is driving a vehicle to & from our workplace. Aside from their commute, the typical American worker has a low risk of injury or death—the average “fatality rate” for all occupations is 4.1 per 100,000 employed, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In terms of raw fatality numbers, the top-3 most hazardous jobs are truck drivers, followed by farmers, and then construction workers. Annual work fatalities nationwide rank in the hundreds for these groups. Each of these three groups has far more employees than those occupations with the highest “fatality rates.” In 2004, BLS reported that the 10 most dangerous jobs in the nation, with the highest “fatality rates,” were:

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  1. Logging workers (92.4 per 100,000 employed)
  2. Aircraft pilots & flight engineers (92.4 per 100,000)
  3. Fishers/commercial fishermen (86.4 per 100,000)
  4. Structural iron & steel workers
  5. Refuse & recycle collectors
  6. Farmers & ranchers
  7. Roofers
  8. Electric power-line workers
  9. Drivers/truck drivers/sales workers
  10. Taxi drivers & chauffeurs

Although logging has always been a dangerous job, a dramatic reduction in fatalities and injuries has resulted from improved forest safety in recent decades. Oregon logging fatalities have progressively declined since the 1980s (19.9 fatalities/year); 1990s (9.5 fatalities/year); and 2000s (6.2 fatalities/year). This improved situation has been the cumulative gains from continuous improvement by the cooperative efforts of private business and state agencies in Oregon.

Why is Logging Dangerous?

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By some measures, logging is the most dangerous occupation in the US. Logging operations involve felling trees, manufacturing logs, and moving trees from the stump to the road, as well as transporting machines, equipment and personnel to and from worksites. Additionally, loggers may delimb, debark, chip, load, sort, and deck logs, pile logging slash, build & maintain roads, prescribed burn, and reforest lands.

The tools and heavy equipment, such as logging machines and chain saws, pose hazards wherever they are used. As loggers use their tools and equipment, they deal with massive weights and ever-changing momentum of falling or moving trees and logs. Cable rigging, suspended logs, and moving machinery demand respect and expertise. Some work can be physically demanding, expecting fitness, coordination & alertness. Most jobs require a menu of unique skills and frequent decisions mastered only through much experience.

Complex forest management project designs and prescriptions sought by the landowner may conflict with the safest practices. Some regulations for environmental protection actually may make logging more dangerous. Added hazards are caused by changing site conditions, such as rough terrain, all-seasons weather, leave trees, pests, and sometimes unpredictable extremes. Work sites are remote, requiring frequent travel, and isolated from health care facilities.

The combination of these hazards presents a significant risk to Oregon forestry and logging employees and their supervisors. Overcoming these hazards—through safety management and continuous improvement—is an objective for every forestry project plan, every business, every worker, every forest landowner, and for every agency involved in forest management—every day. Forestry work can be challenging; but mastering those challenges brings pride to the men and women that enjoy working in Oregon’s forests.

Many Benefits Diminish Hazards of Outdoor Forestry Work

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No discussion of logging safety would be complete without acknowledging those reasons why so many forestry workers and loggers love their careers, and why many forestry folks say “they’d rather do nothing else.” Forestry and logging operations work outdoors in Oregon forests has many rewards and benefits that attract people into the profession every day. The great things about forestry work are:

  1. Being paid to travel outdoors with the wonders of nature daily
  2. New locations monthly; great challenges to conquer weekly
  3. Skilled trades men & women who love their work
  4. Good benefits & above-average compensation
  5. Part of a team; producing results in a small business
  6. Producing wood fiber used across the US and world
  7. Seeing results every day; it’s hands-on
  8. Staying physically & mentally fit
  9. Work dedicated to quality, production & protecting environment
  10. Career advancement in a growing industry
  11. Managing hazards with technology, skill, training & experience
  12. Rewarding opportunities at every sunrise!

The benefits of a forestry or logging career far outweigh the few challenges and hazards that also accompany “working in the woods.” That being said, there are certain known hazards of logging operations, which are today successfully managed to make sure every forestry worker comes home healthy and happy to their family every evening.

History of Oregon Workers’ Compensation and Safe Employment Laws

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Workers compensation insurance is mandatory for any Oregon business having one or more employee. The 1913 Oregon Legislature gave Oregon its first workers’ compensation law, which set up a State Industrial Accident Commission (SIAC) to oversee the Industrial Accident Fund. Employers could elect to contribute to the fund, to receive employee compensation for worker injuries or illnesses. The Legislature overhauled the law in 1965, creating the forerunner of the State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF) and SAIF Corp.

In 1990, based on recommendations of the Labor/Management Task Force appointed by the Governor, the Legislature made comprehensive reforms to the workers’ comp. law, which increased workplace safety, changed compensability, created managed care, and incentivized employers to improve worker safety. Additional law revisions and improvements have been passed by the Legislature in subsequent years.

Today, the State Accident Insurance Fund and SAIF Corp. provide over 60% of the workers’ comp insurance in the state. Oregon’s workers’ compensation law is nationally-regarded for its effective public-private partnership in both providing worker protections and creating efficient & economical workplace safety programs.

The federal Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) gave rise to the Oregon Safe Employment Act in 1973. Its purpose was to ensure safe & healthful working conditions for every Oregon worker, and to reduce the substantial burden—lost production, wage loss, medical expenses, disability compensation payment, and human suffering—created by occupational injury and disease. OSEA created the Oregon-OSHA agency to enforce the state’s workplace safety & health rules, within the Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services.

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The state of Oregon, under an agreement with federal OSHA, operates a ‘State Plan’ occupational safety program, which received federal certification in 1982 and final approval in 2005. Over the years, Oregon has adopted a number of major safety & health standards that are deemed as effective as comparable federal standards. Oregon has also adopted a number of state-initiated rules for which there are no federal counterparts, including Forest Activity Standards, Division 7, containing safety rules relating to logging and other forestry work.

Oregon-OSHA sponsors a Forest Activity Standards Advisory Committee, which meets periodically to consider improvements to the forestry safety rules. Additional rule revisions and improvements have been approved in subsequent years. Oregon’s Forest Activity Standards is nationally-regarded for its effective public-private partnership in providing effective forest worker & workplace safety rules that reduce injuries and receive high compliance by forest businesses.

About the Oregon Forest Safety Rules

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The Oregon-OSHA Forest Activities Safety Rules, Division 7, apply not only to logging but to other operations as well, such as: chemical application; chipping; clearing & slash disposal; firefighting; forest road construction, maintenance & decommission; log dumps, ponds, plant log yards & sort yards; log hauling; marking; pulpwood & non-pulp logging; reforestation/ vegetation management; stream restoration; timber cutting/thinning; timber cruising; and others.

The Oregon-OSHA Forest Activities Safety Rules includes the following chapters: definitions; safety & health program; site plan & implementation; hazard identification; checking system; working alone; medical services & first aid; working near unstable objects & danger trees; power line safeguards; personal protective equipment & programs; fire extinguishers; flagging; signs; vehicles; rigging; guylines, general requirements & tail trees; anchoring; selecting, preparing & rigging trees; securing machines; shut down procedures; protective structures for operators; cable yarding & ground skidding work practices; working near standing tree anchors & tail/intermediate support trees; operation of ground skidding; machines & vehicles; signaling & communications; additional requirements for log truck/ self-loaders; log dumps, ponds and yards; trailer hoists; and fire protection/suppression & prescribed burning.