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Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

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Forest Worker Safety Network

fwsn 2008


Coastal Off-Highway Log Hauling: The Past and Present
Combustible Wood Dust Explosions Logging Video Feature Pick

fwsn 2008

Many of the drivers would not hesitate to tell stories about this flop over or that runaway load.

By Dave Sutherland - Vancouver Island Fleet Safety Consulting

What education is available to off highway drivers? In the past MacMillan Bloedel and similar contractors in most of the areas would require at least one month of driving orientation with an instructor. The driver was not allowed to operate a log truck with an operational retarder (transmission or engine) and they would use only the foundation brakes.

Off highway log trucks were inspected once a month by Provincial mechanical inspectors who would inspect the contractor’s trucks and trailers at the worksite.

Most of the hauling was in the lower parts of the valleys. Trucks later began to haul larger loads on steeper grades. Provincial inspections went from the industrial roads to the highway.

With no inspectors there was a perception of no enforcement. Contractors were to do their own self-policing or rely on an over-tasked WorkSafeBC. There was no perceived reason to comply with regulations. Contractors stopped using Trip Inspection books although it was required.

Trucks and drivers aged. The terrain became steeper. Mechanics went to the highway side and the drivers became the mechanics. The mechanics that remained became overwhelmed, and became good at priority repairs to keep everything running.

Many of the drivers would not hesitate to tell stories about this flop over or that runaway load. This behavior was used like a badge of courage. It was the quality of the driver’s skills not the mechanical condition of their trucks that allowed them to negotiate the terrain and to the dump.

Just because someone repeats the information doesn’t mean it’s right
Some drivers in the Coastal areas had ideas about their trucks, air brakes or the dynamics of the vehicle that were apparently learned or passed down by a senior driver. The information which was wrong or taken out of context “infected” the other drivers and they all believed that “this was the way we do it”. Outsiders coming in conformed or silently ignored the miss-information. Contractors rely on the expertise of the senior drivers and mechanics who may have the wrong perception of acceptable risks or information which then creates unacceptable risks.

Tri-drive Highway TruckWhen the information was confronted the answer was: “You have no idea of the road conditions that we work in. This works and that’s it”. Bringing the best practices from other successful contractors working in the same conditions was sometimes not well received yet some of the most isolated areas have the best contractors and are able to retain their employees and are eager for new ideas or best practices.

My work is to conduct inspections to determine the mechanical condition of log trucks hauling off highway or off and on highway for Coastal logging companies (HDX-Fat Trucks, Tridem-Tridem’s, Jeep or Conventional). Based on the inspection, a report is created and observations and suggestions are sent to the employer.

Once issues have been identified, education must follow and courses were created based on the observations. Drivers, loaders, mechanics, contractors and general foremen are asked to attend the inspections and the courses. The goal is to bring the best practices from successful contractors, mechanics and drivers. Sharing information within the log transportation industry
is difficult.

Originally there was a large learning curve due to the varied types of log trucks and hauling conditions. There is a need for the off highway log trucks as they are never inspected by Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) and only a few of the trucks were on a Commercial Vehicle Inspection Program (CVIP) plan.

The CVIP manual and the various Provincial Acts that deal with off highway logging are used to support our inspections to ensure mechanically that our information is sound.

The best contractors know prevention saves money
Six years after our first inspections some of those contractors and drivers are not working in the industry. Education did not remove “the infection” and it slowly ate up the contractor. Others without “the infection”, that were working in the same areas have been successful and continue working and buying equipment. The best contractors know that prevention saves money.

There are constant changes in the logging industry. The ability to adapt within an organization is difficult, but it has to be overcome. Drivers sometimes blame the loader man, the mechanics or the road design. All can be part of the issues. Looking back my most challenging training sessions have been instructing the best practices to loader operators. Drivers have the right to refuse loads but they also need the support of the general foreman and the contractor.

Education and knowledge is key
Knowledge is the key to success. A question to be asked by a contractor is: what have you done to educate yourself or your drivers? It will be one of the first questions asked by the courts if a serious incident occurs.

Dave Sutherland is a safety consultant and past Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Inspector and has been a Commercial Vehicle Incident Reconstruction Investigator for 22 years.

This story was courtesy of BCFSC Forest Safety News - June 2016.

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Dust control is the single most important factor in preventing fires or explosions in any dust-generating workplace.

Combustible wood dust refers to the fine, dry wood particles that are a by-product of milling wood. This video explains why it's such a hazard in sawmills and wood shops, and also shows how it increases the risk of fires and explosions, which can cause catastrophic injuries, loss of life, and destruction of buildings. Fortunately, these events are preventable.

When dust is exposed to enough heat or even a spark, it can ignite. When airborne dust is near a fire, it often results in an explosion. Poor work procedures can stir dust into the air, and something as simple as a spark from welding or a hot machine motor or bearing, for instance, is all it takes to trigger an explosion.

In order for an explosion to occur, the following five factors need to be present: fuel, dispersion (making the dust airborne), oxygen, ignition, and confinement.

When all five factors are present, it can result in an explosion. When a combustible dust explosion occurs, it is often followed by one or more subsequent explosions. The first explosion stirs up dust that has settled on surrounding surfaces and forms a dust cloud. The dust cloud can fuel a second explosion, which typically starts almost immediately after the first.

Dust control is the single most important factor in preventing fires or explosions in any dust-generating workplace. Effective dust control can reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire or explosion in the workplace. However, if a dust control system isn't designed or working properly, it may create conditions that would support a dangerous fire or explosion.

For more on how to reduce the risk, visit WorkSafeBC.

Something to say about this story? Email us at:              [top]

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.  [top]

Falling Supervisor Training - Emergency Response Plans

This month, a video from the BC Forest Safety Council's Falling Supervisor training course. Watch Certified Falling Supervisor discuss the importance of good emergency response plan when things go wrong. Courtesy of BC Forest Safety Council.

Something to say about this video? Email us at:

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