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Forest Worker Safety Network

fwsn 2008


Kiwis See Safety Value in Dangerous Tree Blasting
Stories of the Past Brought to Light Logging Video Feature Pick

fwsn 2008

Many New Zealanders agree that danger tree blasting should now be considered as a way of eliminating the risk of felling dangerous trees.

A New Zealand Independent Forest Safety Review has raised awareness on looking at systems being used to improve safety. In the British Columbia, the forest industry undertook major safety reforms in 2004 and specific smaller practice reviews several times since. One of their reforms included a change in attitude to felling difficult trees.

In 2009, a BC Coroner’s Review Panel examined three tree faller incidents. They recommended that WorkSafeBC and the BC Forest Safety (BCFS) undertake a study to assess the efficacy of alternate methods of conducting tree falling operations in high hazard areas. The panel was of the opinion that consideration should be given to exploring new, alternate methods of conducting falling operations, which focus on safety and may have the added benefit of reducing production costs.

The BC Coroner’s Review Panel also recognized that the benefits of integrating safety into forestry operations might not be generally recognized by the industry. BCFSC engaged two industry consultants to explore the state of dangerous tree blasting by fallers and found that danger tree blasting should be considered as a way of eliminating the risk of felling dangerous trees. Fallers used to have to manually fell danger trees and put themselves and their coworkers at high risk. Blasting eliminates the risk of workers by removing them from the situation and being able to fell trees remotely.

In the video below, Dave ‘Dazy’ Weymer of D/T Blasting Ltd offers advice on how to successfully blast danger trees, and manage the associated risks. He also offers workshops for training fallers on these blasting techniques.

Courtesy of Wood Week - First Choice in Forest News and BC Forest Safety Council.

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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.

Wally Carlson - Machine Operator

Wally CarlsonI have been connected with the forest industry since 1937, when my Dad moved his family from drought-stricken Alberta to Camp 6 (Caycuse). I was sixteen years old at the time, and was eager to get a job in the woods; but I had to wait over a year before I achieved my goal. I was not idle during that year, and took any job I could find! I rustled wood for people, carried groceries from the store, and even scrubbed floors for one lady.

My brother, Gordon, got a job setting chokers, but was not happy in the woods. He was a store keeper at heart, and when an opening came up for a store clerk, he jumped at the chance! I think it is likely that Gordie was the most widely-known person in the history of Caycuse. As a storekeeper, he had contact with almost all that came through Camp 6 for the forty years, or more, that he was on the job.

My first day of work as a logger came in November 1938. Bert Peck was superintendent at the time, and one day he met me on the store walk. He said, “Well, young fellow, if you still want to go to work, there is a job for you blowing whistles for Bert Soderman on the Clyde yarder.” So, I got a job blowing whistles for four dollars and twenty-five cents a day! A pair of caulk boots, in those days, cost twelve dollars, so it took me three days of work to pay for them!

As I remember it, Tom’s Creek Trail came about when Camp 6 ran out of wood, but were dealing for timber in the Caycuse watershed on the west side of the summit. Camp 3 (Nitnat) still had lots of timber, so the Industrial Timber Mills brass decided to try to keep the Camp 6 crew together for the time when they acquired the wood they were seeking. Some of the machines were moved from Camp 6 to Camp 3 to increase production for the Youbou Sawmill. A footpath was built connecting Camp 3’s rail line, at the top of the mountain with Camp 6 rail line at lake level. The distance was over two miles, and the elevation difference was about one thousand feet.

Carlson Family Home 1937On my first day of work in the woods, I joined the crew in catching the crummy for the ride out past Nixon Creek to the foot of Tom’s Creek Trail. The walk up was not too difficult for a young guy like me, but I am sure it was quite a chore for some of the older men. When we reached the Camp 3 rail line, it was onto another crummy for a ride of a mile or two up the valley.

Clyde Skidder

When we reached the trackside skidder, we still had a long way to go to get to our work site. The rail line ended where the valley formed a huge bowl. The machine that I was to work on was at the top end of a ‘triple swing’: some fifteen hundred feet or so from the trackside skidder, the gas skidder piled up logs that it ‘swung’ from the Skagit yarder, which in turn got its logs from the pile the Clyde yarder had built. The distance from the trackside to the back end of the Clyde setting must have been well over three thousand feet! That meant another long climb before we got to the work site. Bert Soderman, the rigger, was a good boss, and was patient with me when I tangled up six or seven hundred feet of whistle wire. We only had an eight hour work day, but it took twelve hours away from home to get it in.

The Clyde, Skagit, and the Gas skidders were all gasoline-powered, multi-drum winches that were mounted on huge sleds. They were capable of dragging themselves up and down steep mountain terrain.

I wonder how many are still alive that walked the Tom’s Creek Trail to work. I was only seventeen when I did it, and I am now eighty-eight; so, any survivors are getting a bit long in the tooth! In all my years in the woods, I never saw another triple swing, nor did I see a longer hike to get to the job.

Henry Norman has two daughters living in town here, and he’s got Robbie and some other grandsons around. He was instrumental in skidder logging. Skidder in those days were not the little skidders of today – a little tractor that pulls logs around. The skidders were huge steam machines, that could rig a skyline up to two thousand feet long, and haul the logs off the mountainside! They were a real growing concern – a skidder side would have up to twenty or twenty-four people working on it…now a skidder side has three. His son Al, who was three or four years younger than I, turned out to be a good logger too … he was a rigger. They were all Camp 6 loggers.

Wally Carlson Loading Logs

Before the road came in, camp life was a very active place! There were things going on all the time – in season there was baseball, which was a big thing. We had a good team and had pick-up games at camp: we would go to Camp 3, Youbou, and Honeymoon Bay to play their teams. When we went to Camp 3, we would take a barge, called the ‘grub barge’. We would put benches on it, and the ball team, and a whole bunch of hangers-on, would go there. We would play a good ‘double-header’ game, and we would expect the cookhouse to serve us supper in-between. So, the cooks in Camp 3 and Camp 6 got in a bit of rivalry over who could put on the better spread! We went to Lake Cowichan, and played ball, too.

All winter long we had bridge and whist games in the hall, as well as badminton… there were a lot of badminton games! We also started a drama club there, and put on three act plays – I worked with the drama club. I directed some, and acted in some. I also wrote two acts of a play, and then I ran out of ideas, so I got a third act out of a book someplace. So, my play was about getting ready to put a play on, and it was well-received; but like a damn fool, I never even kept a copy of it! But, I was trying to write even in those days. We did that until the coming of television – once the television came … to hell with us amateurs!

First aid was a big thing in those days – all the logging camps, and various other organizations had several men working for them. They had first aid teams who were trained by St. John’s Ambulance. Camp 6 was pretty good – they won several awards and went to Nanaimo, and Victoria in competition with several other teams. I was never a ‘first aider’ myself! This was just recreation, but it served a very useful purpose; because we were a long ways from a doctor up there. In the early days, before the road came in and the only way to reach Caycuse was by boat, we took a boat down to Youbou, or the foot of the lake, and caught a taxi or some wheels of some kind.

The road was made in 1955. I guess it was about the same time that the steel got taken up – they lifted the train track and used the track bed for the road. The trucking company was owned by the same forest company; by that time it was BCFP. They took over Port Renfrew – there were two camps, and they took over one of them; but I don’t remember the name of it.

Wally Loading from Low-Bed in 1955

I went to work at Camp 6 and, except for the time I was away in the army, I never left! I did get transferred to Port Renfrew for one summer when the steel was taken up – that would have been in 1955. I had a brand new machine that I was operating and I took it with me… they sent me and the machine! They had a new expensive loader, and they couldn’t afford to have it sitting idle. They were still logging at Port Renfrew, so they shipped me and the machine over there.

The trip to Port Renfrew was quite a trip! First, we started in Caycuse: They brought the Spruce Raft, which was a huge raft made of spruce logs for hauling loads around the lake, and it had railroad tracks on it. So, they brought the Spruce Raft in, and I built a deck on to the raft – we are talking about a power shovel, basically. It had a gooseneck boom on it, and it was made specifically for loading logs with. I think it was about sixty tons, or something like that. We went across the lake to Haws Bay, and then I got off the Spruce Raft, and trundled my way up the beach to the railroad track. We then got on the railroad car, and it joined right on to the CPR line to Victoria. So, we went chugging along, until we got to a place called Kapoors Crossing – we then got off the railroad car, and got onto a low bed logging truck.

We rode for about five or six miles, until we came to a creek with a big bridge across it – they were afraid to move the machine across the bridge, it was so rickety. So, they had the Cat in there, and built a steep road down one bank, and a steep road up the other – with the Cat behind me snubbing me down the steep bank, and then running around me, and dragging me up the other side. We did that three times! Then we got into Bear Creek and found out that we were on the wrong side of the creek! It had a huge trestle on it, so I had to get off the low bed there and get onto the railroad again. They put about … I don’t know how many skeleton cars in between the loci and me on the low bed. Then, they pushed me across this huge trestle, which was reported to be the highest trestle in Canada! Anyway, after I got off the trestle, I got back on the low bed again. Then, I got up the road grade to Harris Creek Camp, and from there I went loading logs.

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]

Chainsaw Safety: Part 1 or 2

This video describes in detail the fundamentals of safe chainsaw operation in sawmills, including saw selection, personal protective equipment, saw maintenance, saw operation, and cutting hazards. Look for Part 2 next month. Video courtesy of WorkSafeBC.

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Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

A USW Health & Safety Production - Click to view.
USW OH&S Video/a>

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!  [back to top]

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Forest Workers Safety Network - 2009