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Forest Worker Safety Network

fwsn 2008


Coroner’s Inquest Warns About Worker Fatigue in Death
Mosaic - Stories of the Past Brought to Light Logging Video Feature Pick

fwsn 2008

Jury recommends WorkSafeBC develop educational tool about the risks associated with worker fatigue.

By Glenda Luymes - The Province

The jury at a coroner’s inquest in Vernon Friday recommended better education about worker fatigue in the wake of an 18-year-old Lavington mill employee’s death.

Bradley Haslam was part of the overnight cleanup crew at the Tolko Industries Lavington planer mill when he became tangled in a conveyor belt on June 15. He was found by a shift supervisor who freed him from the equipment and performed first aid until an ambulance arrived. Haslam was pronounced dead at the Vernon hospital.

According to a copy of the coroner’s inquest verdict obtained by The Province, Haslam died from blunt trauma.

The jury recommended WorkSafe B.C. develop an educational tool about the risks associated with worker fatigue, while also recommending a review of training and curriculum for young and new workers. The jury recommended WorkSafe B.C. incorporate all shifts, including graveyard and weekend shifts, into its workplace inspections.

The jury also recommended Tolko Industries produce an education tool that describes the lessons learned and safety standards accomplished since Haslam’s death, and that those safety measures become a benchmark for the B.C. Forest Safety Council.

According to a story in the Vernon Morning Star, Haslam was a popular student and leader and had recently graduated high school in Lumby. He was captain of his midget house league hockey team. 

Courtesy of the Vancouver Province.

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This project, while seeking to preserve the memories of forest pioneers, unearthed many strong feelings from those who toiled in the woods.

Many of our seniors hold precious memories, but as they age these stories become lost. It is the aim of Mosaic of Forestry Memories to collect these stories and present them here. Mosaic of Forestry Memories has tried hard to capture the spirit of each individual, the way they speak, and how they see the forest industry that they spent their lives working in.

George Smart - High Rigger

I started in the forest industry in 1939 at the age of fourteen while on my summer holidays. I started as a whistle punk at Port McNeill. It was alright for a young kid – I only made $ .25 an hour and I paid $1.00/day for room and board so that left a buck… then I had to buy a pair of caulk boots and they were $12.00! As a whistle punk I had to relay signals into the machine.

George Smart - High RiggerI started working in the Cowichan Valley in 1947 at Hillcrest Lumber Company at Mesachie Lake. I started as a skidder foreman on the railroad, and then once the railroad disappeared I became a high rigger. I then became the logging foreman and in 1959 I became the logging manager. I enjoyed all the positions!

As a skidder foreman, I had a crew of twenty-five and I was in charge of the operation. Tony Yurkin was the operator and Gus Armand was the fireman. I had to make sure that everyone knew their job and what they were doing. The steam skidder was one of the biggest machines in the wood – the skyline went out twenty-five hundred feet. It was manufactured by Lidgerwood, an American company and was one of many imported from Georgia in the 1930’s.

At the time we were doing railroad logging, it was interesting! If one of the crew was doing something wrong, I had to let them know or they might get themselves killed; they had to know what the hell they were doing and as long as everybody did their job, there were no problems! There wasn’t really much competition between the sides because we had different kinds of machines – one side had a skidder and one had a high lead; they were different altogether! A skidder has a skyline with the carriage on the skyline and the high lead line goes out and grabs the logs and drags them on the ground. The skidder lifts them right up and pulls them in. You had to be careful – one mistake and that’s it! I had co-workers who were injured - one guy got crushed with the loader swinging around but it was his own fault really because he wasn’t paying attention. You have to watch what you are doing! It is usually the newcomers – you have to watch them, train them, tell them what to do, and what not to do.

Hillcrest used the skidder on the railroad from 1943 to 1948. When the terrain got too rugged for railroad the truck logging took over. In 1948 the skidder went to the Hillcrest shop, managed by Andy Klevin and Paul Stone and was converted from steam to diesel. A Cummins diesel engine was installed - twelve cylinders and six hundred horsepower. A more powerful logging machine has never been built! The railroad undercarriage was replaced by solid wheels allowing it to be moved on a logging road.

High RiggerIn 1949, the skidder changed to high lead and I became the high rigger and raised and rigged all the spar trees for the logging operation. It was interesting but fairly hard work. I had to climb right up; there was nothing to it as far as I was concerned! I used a belt and spurs and cut the limbs off as I went. It might take two and a half to three hours for the real big trees. I only used an axe, some people used a saw and in later days they used a power saw. But I just used an axe. One morning I went out and topped five trees – but they were only small ones. I used the gin pole to rig the main tree. In the busiest year I raised and rigged fifty two spar trees – that is one a week! I had a good crew so that helped and my second rigger was Joe Bowman. However, I am now suffering some from my years as a high rigger- my hips have seized up because all my movement was right in one spot.

In 1954 I was promoted to General Logging Foreman, in charge of the logging operation. The forester was George Forslund, who with his assistant Roger Atchison, laid out all the roads and logging settings.

In 1959 I was appointed Manager of the Logging Division and held the job until Hillcrest closed in 1968. My work as a logging manager was a challenge. Everything was different and you had to do things the right way and teach people to do things the right way. I never really got involved with the fellows on the job – that was up to the foremen. The foremen knew what they were doing and knew how to handle the workers – I just worked with the foremen and told them what I wanted.

My wife and I got married in Vancouver in 1947 and the first place we lived was at Hillcrest - eventually we built our own home there. The company supplied all the lumber; the Stone brothers were the best people in the world to work for! Hector Stone was the president at the time and his father, Carlton Stone founded the company. They were great people to work for and it couldn’t be better!

Living at Hillcrest was just like living in town, but it was all company houses. We had one son and he went to school right in Hillcrest. The camp had moved from Sahtlam to Mesachie Lake in 1943. When we moved there in 1947 we didn’t have a car but the bus used to run from Mesachie Lake down to Duncan. So after a couple of weeks there we thought we would go to Duncan and do a little shopping. So away we went and got on the bus to Duncan. Then we asked when the last bus went back to Mesachie and he said “In five minutes”, so we got back on the bus and came right back! The roads were gravel roads too – rough as hell!

I ate at the cookhouse every day – I always had breakfast there. Charlie Monti was the best cook in the world! It was terrific and you could eat anything you wanted and all you wanted! Some of them loggers could eat a couple of steaks that would fill their plate up! They had a women’s club there and had a lot of different events; the men didn’t really get involved too much. Except for the odd weekend when they would have a real wing-ding … the loggers all got drunk and they got the mill workers drunk too! There were also sporting events, such as softball, during the spring and summer months. There were big Chinese and East Indian communities at Hillcrest, and everyone had their own churches and temples. Everyone got along quite well – there were no problems at all. They all lived and worked together and were all good people. I left there in 1967 and the mill shut down in 1968. From then till retirement I worked at various logging outfits in a management capacity.

I was just talking with Frank Vanyo, a former bulldozer operator at Hillcrest, the other day about the weather and all the damn snow we’ve been having! I asked him “Remember the first weekend in March years ago? We had the weekend off and the weather was nice – then we woke up on Monday morning to five feet of snow!”

Rigging Crew

The main change in the forest industry, that I noticed, was from railroad logging to truck logging. It was hardly noticeable – all of a sudden the railroad were gone and the trucks were there! So instead of a train, there would be about a half dozen logging trucks. It wasn’t really quicker – it was just easier to get up the steep mountains with the trucks. Madill was coming out with some new equipment – we used their steel spars. We had our own machines so we added Madill spars to the machine.

I don’t really know what they are doing now! I see the odd picture in the paper but I retired from logging back in 1976, and the forest industry was still doing quite well back then. I found my time in the forest industry very interesting!

Courtesy of Mosaic of Forestry Memories.


FWSN Media Room

The Forest Worker Safety Network regularly reviews logging videos on The video below is our feature pick for this month. Click the video screen if you wish to enlarge the video for viewing on in new browser window on the website.  [back to top]

McLean's Steam-Powered Sawmill: Port Alberni

This month features a video on sawmilling. The historical McLean's Sawmill in Port Alberni was operated by R.B. McLean and his three sons from 1926 to 1965. It is a showcase of pioneering get-it-done attitude and inventiveness. The mill is typical of the remote coastal lumber camp and sawmill complex from the middle of the last century and has been named a National Historic Site (1989) to commemorate the history of logging and saw milling in British Columbia. The site is a very complete collection of industrial and personal memories of the people that lived and worked there. The sawmill has been rebuilt to operate as it did in 1965, including a replica of a 1928 log carriage. The camp buildings are in the process of been restored and furnished as they were at particular times in their history. Video courtesy of

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Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

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FWSN Tailgate Talk

Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

Day of Mourning - April 28th

Forest Worker Safety Network

The Forest Workers Safety Network (FWSN) is an initiative of United Steelworkers (USW) District 3, which represents over 20,000 forest workers in British Columbia.

In light of rising forest industry fatalities and injuries, the FWSN has been formed as a response to a demand for a worker-focused information and networking system. The FWSN is available to all BC forest workers, at no cost, whether or not they are members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

The FWSN is initiating its activities by disseminating information developed for BC Coastal loggers and woodlands employees, from stump to dump and beyond. We are also collecting information on safety issues in the sector and on urgent and pressing issues that groups of workers and individuals face. We provide general health and safety information and information on the USW’s ongoing efforts to stop needless fatalities and injuries.

There will be regular communications for all workers who sign up.

Join the Forest Workers Safety Network today!  [top]

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Forest Workers Safety Network - 2009