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Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

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Forest Worker Safety Network

fwsn 2008


Reducing Risks in the Woods: Smart for Business
IMIRP Ergonomic Tool Kit: Booth Operator Logging Video Feature Pick

fwsn 2008

Let your guys know you care. Let them know you don’t want them taking any risks on your behalf.

By Pam Jorgenson

Forestry is not an industry for the weak of heart. We have a legacy of operating around extreme hazards, of tackling difficult terrain and for overcoming huge obstacles. Risk has been an inherent part of business. But the times have changed. Companies are recognizing that accepting these high risks, and coping with the consequences, are not good business practices. And many companies are building strategies to move away from the old git’er done attitudes.

In their efforts to eliminate serious injuries in the woods Interfor is in the midst of a coastal initiative. This began with a detailed review of their work sites and safety results across BC, in which the number one issue causing serious injuries was identified: Workers accept a level of risk that is too high.

But isn’t this the way of the woods? Not everyone thinks it needs to be this way. Mike Hamilton, of Hamilton Logging, doesn’t believe this should be the status quo any more. He has teamed up with Interfor in their work to talk to every supervisor—both staff and contractor—that works on their claim.

Mike’s message is simple: “Let your guys know you care. Let them know you don’t want them taking any risks on your behalf. We haven’t done a very good job as an industry in letting the employee know this.”

Safety professionals would agree that supervisors and company owners play a key role in reducing a worker’s level of risk. They need to set up their systems to protect their workers, and they need to clearly communicate their expectations. Consider the incidents you’ve been exposed to – is the worker being neglectful or defiant, or might he be doing ‘what he thought his boss wanted him to do?’

  • Think of the faller going after the questionable tree to get the valuable log.

  • Think of the log hauler driving on icy roads to get the last load in.

  • Think of the field engineer trying to get across the block faster by crossing the ravine on a suspended log.

In most of these cases, the workers are extremely committed to their employers and the overall operation. So committed, in fact, they may risk their lives to conduct a routine task. The supervisor has a big role to play in changing these accepted levels of risk.

To encourage supervisors to become more actively involved in lowering workers’ exposure to hazards, Interfor is asking staff and contract supervisors to have one-on-one safety conversations with their workers on a regular basis to discuss hazards and risks. These are not the safety conversations that have been happening all along; they are in depth conversations where the worker is encouraged to identify the hazards and risks and to explain how they will be managing the risk. Interfor’s coastal operations are tracking these conversations in a pilot project and they hope the results will show that as conversations about risks and hazards increase, incidents will decrease. These types of results have been seen in other industries using similar programs.

Hamilton supports this approach. He believes that having open conversations with his staff is the key to success in keeping his guys safe and in running a smooth business. By setting time aside to get to know their concerns at the job, to redirect them when they’re working in risky situations and even to flag personal issues, Mike and his supervisors are able to recognize when someone needs more support. And by providing that support, whether it means more training, a discussion of how to approach an onsite hazard, or sending someone home because his head isn’t in the game, Mike’s company is poised to reduce its risks and consequent losses.

Dean Fauchon, Woods Foreman with Helifor Canada has also been actively involved with Interfor’s initiative to reduce his workers’ level of accepted risk. He believes he has already made progress with his staff, and is using some specific strategies to engage them in conversations where hazards can be raised and addressed before they cause incidents and loss to the individual and the company. He says he will continue to use these strategies, even after Interfor’s project is complete.

Some of the principles that the companies are using to encourage discussion of risks at a site include:

  • Set aside a time that is convenient for both the worker and the supervisor. Shut off any machines and have the discussion one-on-one.

  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no. “Got any concerns?” won’t get a supervisor very much information. Rather, try “What are your concerns?”

  • Listen to the worker’s response. Stay focused on his answers and don’t get distracted by other things going on at the operation. Ask for clarification of any issues or concerns to show you’ve heard his points.

  • If action is required, take it! A worker will stop raising his concerns if his supervisor doesn’t act.

  • Explain what you are going to do and when you will update the worker.

How often has a supervisor wondered after an incident, “Why did my employee decide to do that? Why did he do something so risky?” With open lines of communication and an opportunity to discuss the challenges, concerns and risks on a site, hopefully supervisors won’t have to say these words—the incidents and consequent losses will simply be avoided.

Pam Jorgenson, RPF, is a Training Manager at the BC Forest Safety Council. She can be reached at

Courtesy of the BC Truck Loggers Magazine - Winter2015.

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IMIRP Common Sawmill Industry Job Ergonomic Tool Kits

In this installment, invites visitors to examine the IMIRP Ergonomic Tool Kit for Lumber Straightener.

The Booth Operator is responsible for operating various types of controls and making rapid decisions to maximize the amount of lumber produced from logs. The Booth Operator will operate the infeed and outfeed via controls, perform visual observation and decision making, and may clear upset conditions in lumber/log flow, and perform maintenance tasks.

The physical demands of a Booth operator may include forceful movements of the elbow, wrist and lower back, repetitive motions of the neck, shoulder, elbow and lower back - in combination at time with awkward postures.

The Booth Operator is required to make rapid decisions on a continuous basis throughout the shift where several decisions may have to be made at once to execute a physical action.

What is IMIRP?

In 1997, WorkSafeBC (formerly the Worker’s Compensation Board), the Council of Forest Industries (COFI), and the Industrial Wood and Allied Workers of Canada (IWA-Canada) found common interest in reducing workplace injuries suffered in the forest industry – specifically in provincial sawmills. As a result of this partnering, the Industrial Musculoskeletal Injury Reduction Program Society (IMIRP) was formed and the society jointly produced a unique industry-wide approach to the reduction of musculoskeletal injuries in BC sawmills.

IMIRP evaluated 106 common sawmill industry jobs and developed a series of 66 “Tool Kits” that specifically deal with reducing injuries from an ergonomic perspective. The IMIRP Tool Kits provided the foundation for a sawmill ergonomic program and were designed for implementation through the Joint Health and Safety Committee at the plant level. The previously featured Madill 124 Grapple Yarder video brings workplace ergonomics back under the bright light of injury prevention and plans to focus that light on sawmill ergonomics in upcoming website updates.

Sadly, the IMIRP program fell on hard times and the society no longer exists. But will take a close look at both the “nuts and bolts” of injury prevention through ergonomic workplace design and the work done by IMIRP by examining some of the Common Sawmill Industry Job Tool Kits that were offered to the sawmill industry 10 years ago. will post IMIRP Tool Kits on this website over the coming months so members and visitors can decide for themselves if ergonomic considerations could play a part in their workplace occupational healthy and safety programs. 

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is not something that most forest workers know alot about. In fact, many forest workers have never even heard of the field of ergonomic study. For those people, the field of ergonomics can be described as a scientific discipline that seeks to understand and improve human interactions with products, equipment, environments and systems – equipment being the key aspect in the Madill video mentioned above. While the field of ergonomics aims to develop and apply knowledge and techniques to optimize equipment performance, the main purpose of ergonomics is to protect the health, safety and well-being of individuals operating equipment and/or completing repetitive work tasks. So it’s important for equipment manufacturers to develop sound ergonomic controls for the operators of their equipment and it’s equally important that employers develop sound work procedures for employees as they complete the responsibilities assigned to them.

How does all this come to rest on It falls within the scope of workplace injury prevention and the finds the subject matter appropriate enough to pass onto its members. FWSN feels that workplace ergonomics is something that forest workers might like to explore in an effort to gain a better understanding of the field of study for themselves and/or for their own workplace.

Click here for IMIRP Implementation Guide in pdf format.
Click here for IMIRP Body Manual in pdf format.
Click here for IMIRP General Risk Factor Solutions Manual in pdf format.      [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.  [back to top]

Chainsaw Safety: Part 2 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. Video courtesy of WorkSafeBC.

Something to say about this video? Email us at:


Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

A USW Health & Safety Production - Click to view.
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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!  [back to top]

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Forest Workers Safety Network - 2009