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Forest Worker Safety Network

fwsn 2008


Keeping Your Head in the Game
Combustible Dust Advisors Receive Training at WFP Logging Video Feature Pick

fwsn 2008

Falling a cedar

New initiatives are being taken to increase the safety of fallers in the woods, but some of B.C.’s longest-working fallers—who have achieved incident-free 40-plus-year careers— say one of the major things a faller can do is simply keep his head in the game, and stay focused on the job at hand.

By Paul MacDonald - Logging & Sawmill Journal

Loggers might choose to work with a variety of bunchers, processors and loaders, or other types of equipment in their operations, but there’s a particular type of logger who works with only one type of equipment: power saws. These are, of course, the hand fallers who work in varying terrain, including steep slope wood, much of it in B.C.

Safety-wise, staying focused on the job is important for everyone who works in the forest industry—but this is even more importantly the case for fallers, due to the inherent hazards of the job.

At a recent presentation, Peter Sprout, the BC Forest Safety Council’s falling manager, said that the most important thing to ensure safe outcomes in the bush was recognizing the need to stay focused on the job—and understanding how hard that can be.

Sprout says no one has the perfect answer to faller safety. But the industry has come a long way from simply saying “get 10 feet away from the stump”.

Sprout said fallers can learn from current understandings including:

  • The experiences and opinions of 40-year plus career fallers who have not had a single incident.

  • Managing the impact of transitions from old growth to second growth blocks, given the perception that second growth is easier, with less hazards creating an environment where a faller may relax and let his guard down.

Some of B.C.’s longest-working fallers who have achieved incident-free 40-plus-year careers have shared with Sprout the most important thing they believe has kept them safe: chiefly keeping their head in the game, staying focused and leaving home appreciative of how good life really is before heading out to the bush.

Showing a series of slides of photographs of different terrains, he asked audience members to consider what they would anticipate would be more challenging days for fallers and less challenging days. The point he was making was there was a perception that there were a higher number of incidents in the more challenging blocks (old growth) versus less challenging blocks (second growth). In reality, though, incidents can happen in any type of timber. He was saying supervisors need to recognize that they might have to spend as much or more time walking through blocks that appear easy—because when fallers get in the mindset that it is “easy”, that’s when many incidents happen.

Some hand falling is a challenge

Sprout said five falling incidents in 2013 were only inches away from being another five potential fatalities. All five incidents involved small diameter trees (six inches or less at the base but 50 feet or taller) striking the worker from behind while they were falling other trees. All occurred in second growth that most would accept as an easy day at work.

Two of the industry’s safety working committees, the Coast Harvesting Advisory Group and Falling Technical Advisory Group, have identified some key areas to help support further improvements in safety performance in falling:

  • Switchback training – Understanding what’s going on in the brain when in an upset condition and how fallers can gain control over negative thoughts. A happy worker is a team player and team players create safe work cultures.

  • Fit to fall – Dr. Delia Roberts of B.C.’s Selkirk College is working to observe fallers and their nutrition and hydration habits to provide the industry with the best recommended practices that ensure stable blood sugar levels for fallers. This is very important as it is often when blood sugar levels are low that impacts on the mind and body are negative and poor decision-making occurs or muscle fatigue sets in. Keeping consistent blood sugar levels can mean up to a three-quarter of a second increased response time—for fallers, the difference potentially between life and death.

  • Degraded imagery – Research has shown that not everyone can look at something, a forest scene for example, and see the same things or identify potential hazards. 3-D image training can help people see more clearly what they haven’t seen before, the benefit being biggest for new fallers as part of their new faller training, but also of benefit to established fallers, to literally see the forest and each tree with new eyes.

  • Fatigue management – In-field testing is happening with wrist bands that can measure body functions and rate fatigue levels, informing the wearer of a need to rest, eat, drink, or stop work.

Sprout talked about the culture of safety and the most important roles of falling supervisors and falling partners.

He said falling supervisors can help their fallers “keep their head in the game” by:

  • Talking to their fallers regularly

  • Building trust

  • Checking workmanship weekly

  • Knowing when things are off for their faller

  • Providing confidential support

  • Reviewing problem trees

  • Being available to discuss any home issues

He also talked about the role of the falling partners. “If fallers can get to the point that they look out for each other, showing concern for each other when one recognizes something is off, it will go a long way towards preventing falling incidents.” 

For much more on the Logging & Sawmill Journal story by Paul MacDonald, click here.

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Advisor training consisted of three-days of training in Western Forest Products lumber manufacturing operations

Since the 2012 dust explosions in the northern interior, combustible dust is on everyone’s radar. The BC Forest Industry is taking it seriously and so are their employees mostly represented by the United Steelworkers (USW). During forest industry negotiations in 2013 and 2014, the USW were successful in convincing employers to include their employees – USW members – in efforts to control combustible dust in the workplace.

As a result, the Parties agreed to approach the Safety Advisory Foundation for Education and Research (SAFER) for funding of a one-year pilot project where USW members would be utilized for the purpose of promoting awareness and compliance of the evolving dust standards for the purpose of safety and productivity.

Roll out of the pilot project involved combustible dust recognition training for a number of USW safety advocates selected from union operations in four regions of the province. Stuart Moore from Canadian Forest Products Canal Flats Sawmill was selected to represent the Kootenay/Columbia Valley region; Eric Gregson from Weyerhaeuser Canada Princeton Sawmill was selected to represent the Thompson Nicola/Okanagan region; Doug Tingley from International Forest Products Acorn Sawmill Division was selected to represent the Coast/Lower Mainland; and finally John Binng from Western Forest Products Alberni Pacific Division was selected to represent the Coast/Vancouver Island region. These individuals were selected to receive combustible dust recognition training for their role as SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors based on the their involvement as safety advocates within their operations and a Health & Safety Committee background.

L to R Front: John Binng, Ron Corbeil, Brian O'Rourke; Middle: Bill Laturnus, Doug Tingley, Eric Gregson; Back: Stuart Moore, Theressa Klein, Ed Kent

Sitting in on the combustible dust recognition training from the Prince George region were USW Local 1-424 representatives Ed Kent and Brian O’Rourke who along with northern interior employers will drive a similar combustible dust initiative through the Safety and Health Research Program (SHARP) in the northern interior region.

Also attending were John Mountain, USW Technical Advisor for Job Evaluation & Rate Determination; Ron Corbeil, USW District 3 Health, Safety & Environment Coordinator and SAFER Co-Chair; and John Bulcock, Western Forest Products Corporate Manager Health & Safety, and SAFER Co-Chair. Bill Laturnus, Laturnus Consulting Ltd. providing much of the training while Ray Roch, current Director of Fire Inspection and Prevention Initiative (FIPI) delivered an overview of education materials. WFP Safety Coordinator Theressa Klein assisted during the mill inspections tours by guiding the group safety through each of lumber manufacturing operations that were visited.

SAFER Combustible Dust Advisor training was a three-day program that began in Western Forest Products corporate boardroom in Nanaimo and continued in sawmill and remanufacturing operations for hands-on practice over the following two days.

After initial introductions and an overview of expectations delivered by both Ron Corbeil and John Bulcock, both stressed the importance of Joint Health & Safety Committee involvement during inspections as they firmly believe that any involvement with combustible dust will enhance their knowledge base and promote a sense of meaningful participation.

Bill Laturnus followed by ushering advisor training into the practical realm of combustible dust inspections based on his years of experience in industry management and years of health and safety work as both a WorkSafeBC Certificate of Recognition External Auditor, and coach and trainer involved in occupational health and safety program development. Bill’s positive message provided attendees an approach that will enable the SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors to systematically work through a management of change structure that addresses analysis of combustible dust benchmark levels, sampling and evaluation, and the subsequent managing of controls and monitoring – moisture content and dust particle size being a significant factor. Bill stressed the importance of conducting a systems inspections rather than a regulation compliance inspections and knowing the difference between the two processes.

Ray Roch provided insights into his work as Director of FIPI and offered awareness of both the history of the dangers of combustible dust in industry, and to the regulatory side of combustible dust inspections from a fire prevention standpoint. Ray urged the SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors to become fully familiar with the wealth of information found on the FIPI website and to be aware of the differences between deflagration and explosion. Ray also pointed out that it's very important to recognize the dangers that both primary and secondary dust accumulations may present in the company of an ignition source.

SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors John Binng and Eric GregsonThe technical training gave way to hands-on training on day-two with a trial dust inspection by each SAFER Combustible Dust Advisor individually at Western Forest Products Nanaimo Sawmill Division, and both their Ladysmith Saltair Lumber Division and their Ladysmith Forest Products Division. Day-three inspection tours by the remaining SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors were conducted individually at Western Forest Products Chemainus Sawmill Division, and at Western Forest Products South Island Reman and Chemainus Value-Added remanufacturing plants located in the Chemainus industrial park. From a hands-on combustible dust inspection of an actual sawmill operation and the follow-up coaching by Bill Laturnus after each sawmill inspection tour, the SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors have been provided a hands-on experience that will allow them to begin their new role as combustible dust advisors with a decent understanding on the explosive characteristics of combustible dust.

It is expected that SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors will provide assistance to Employers in their region to help them comply with regulatory provisions for combustible dust in the workplace. It is also an expectation that SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors will apply the knowledge gained from their training and that any experience gained during the pilot project is beneficial and will be passed on to Health and Safety Committees at the plant level in an effort to share their knowledge on combustible dust.

Trainor Bill Laternus offers insights to SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors

SAFER Combustible Dust Advisors have returned back to their regions and it’s expected that these individuals will work closely with Employers in their area to coordinate a strategy to begin combustible dust inspections. SAFER is well on their way to having this initiative be ready for service sometime in September.

For any questions about this pilot project, contact SAFER Co-Chairs Ron Corbeil or John Bulcock.


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]

BC Interior Logging: Small Stems and Lots of Them

Logging methods in the BC Interior are much different than the typical method of logging on the BC Coast; it's all about stem size. This video shows a typical timber harvesting process at an BC interior logging operation near Merritt. While mechanized logging allows for some amazing productivity, notice the timber size and piece-count being managed and how effective the snippers, skidders, processors, and loaders are at handling it. Video courtesy of
BCBackrider Mark Thomson.

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FWSN Tailgate Talk

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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