What your employees need to know, wear, and do
Logging operations are inherently dangerous. According to OSHA, “logging is the most dangerous occupation in the United States.” OHSA notes that: as loggers use their tools and equipment, they deal with massive weights and irresistible momentum of falling, rolling, and sliding trees and logs. The hazards are more acute when dangerous environmental conditions are factored in, such as uneven, unstable, or rough terrain; inclement weather, including rain, snow, lightning, winds, and extreme cold; and/or remote and isolated work sites where healthcare facilities are not immediately accessible.
Accidents happen in a flash, and every accident will impact your business. It might mean a slowdown or stoppage in production, or perhaps equipment that has to be shut down for a while. Worse, employees might be injured and out of work. There are a number of safety precautions that can minimize the risks to employees and your business.
The best defense against accidents is to understand the triggers and implement a comprehensive safety plan that covers all operations. “A good safety plan is one that’s in writing, communicated effectively to all employees, provides for continuous training, and is reviewed and evaluated regularly to make sure it’s keeping up with the problems that are coming up on the job site,” says Tony Tijerina, a loss control consultant. A good safety plan will address general safety, landing site safety, equipment and operations training, personal protective equipment requirements, and job site communications. It should also include a fire prevention and response plan.
The Elements of a Solid Safety Plan
The first key element of a good safety plan is general safety, including tool handling, storage and use of flammable materials, and spill prevention and response. Tool handling should address not just how to use different tools, but also what precautions are needed to use those tools. Your flammable materials section needs to spell out proper precautions for handling, storage, and use of diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, and other flammable materials (including how to properly transfer liquids from containers to equipment).
Addressing landing safety is critical because this is where most non-employees are going to be when on site. As part of your landing safety plan, says Tijerina, “you should have a designated location for truck drivers and any other visitors to report. And it should be within visibility of the loader operators.” Tijerina adds that the loader operators should have to notify everyone that there are visitors present—especially with skidders around. Other elements to include: a practice of challenging visitors (Why are they on the site and do they belong there?) and requirements that visitors wear the same personal protective equipment as employees and that they be escorted at all times.
Spelling out the personal protective equipment that every employee should have and wear is another core element of your safety plan. This equipment includes hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, vests, hearing protection, and seat belts while operating equipment and as per any specific OSHA requirements.
A plan for how employees communicate (both regular and emergency communications) on the job site is essential. Are you relying on hand signals? If so, employees have to be in sight of each other. Are you using radios? If so, does everyone on the job site have one? All of this should be spelled out in your plan. Tijerina advises companies to have a designated code word for emergencies as well as a plan for what each employee should do next. Finally, Tijerina says that companies should have a cell phone policy. “Employees need to be 100 percent aware on the job,” he says, “and cell phone use should be restricted to breaks and lunch. If you have to take a call, you should stop your equipment and ground the blade first.”
Your safety plan should also include a fire prevention and response plan. “This plan needs to pay particular attention to equipment and maintenance,” says Tijerina, who points out that debris in the machinery, as well as leaks and spills, are huge potential fire hazards. Every fire prevention and response plan should specifically address equipment inspection and maintenance procedures, including lock-out/tag-out procedures. Be aware of landowner, state, and federal requirements and act accordingly.
Finally, don’t forget about transportation safety. A solid safety plan has to address all elements of safe operations on and off the site, including making sure employees are properly trained to use equipment (whether a power tool, skidder, loader, fellerbuncher, or log or chip truck).
Training Is Critical
Indeed, training in all elements of your safety plan is critical. In fact, OSHA requires that loggers hold a safety meeting at least monthly, and companies are required to have each employee sign in and keep documentation that includes the date of the training, the subject matter, and the signatures of those present.
It’s not enough to just train your employees. You should also train the other people who appear regularly on your job site to help avoid accidents. “If you use subcontractors, they need to be trained in your safety plan because it’s important that they comply with and follow the same rules and procedures as your employees,” says Tijerina.
Finally, Tijerina stresses that a logging safety plan is only as effective as the implementation. “There must be ongoing training and a commitment to safety by both management and employees,” he says. In other words, you can’t just write it up and throw it in a drawer.
Reprinted with permission of Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc.