January 17, 2017

Creating a Safe Work Environment

As a logger, many things are competing for your attention. A harsh and changing environment. Long hours. Looming deadlines. Managing a fleet and crews. Any one of these could distract you from operating safely, which is why it is so essential that safety remain the focus of everything you do.

Today’s machines are equipped with modern safety features, but at the end of the day, keeping your equipment and work environment safe is up to you and your fellow loggers. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and there are important steps that can (and should) be taken to ensure the safety and health of everyone on a logging team.

There is a wealth of information available on safety in the workplace and safety programs within the workplace. Across the board, several common themes arise:

  • All injuries and fatalities are preventable
  • Visible management, commitment and consistent “leading by example” are the keys to success in safety.
  • A sustainable improvement in safety comes through change in attitudes and behavior of people.
  • Communication and reporting is incredibly valuable.
  • Safety begins at home and in our daily lives.

The idea is that safety in the workplace is a continuation of safety in our daily lives. Creating a culture of safety, according to industry and agency experts, is to maintain effective standards to protect workers. Standards are voluntary practice guidelines to help workplaces meet regulatory requirements. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your own culture of safety within your logging operation.

Develop a Safety Policy

Having a strong, structured policy in place to ensure everyone on your team is aligned in terms of safety is an ideal first step. Whether your logging operation includes just a few machines or a large fleet, five employees or fifty, ensuring your team has proper tools in place is crucial. Some key components of a safety policy may include:

  • Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job you’re doing, including a hard hat, safety shoes, gloves, eyes and hearing protection, and reflective clothing.
  • Knowing where to find and how to use fire extinguishers or fire suppression systems and emergency equipment, including first-aid kits.
  • Understanding jobsite rules and regulations related to your application and equipment. These expectations will vary according to work environment or geographical location.

Commit to a Safe Workplace

Once a structured program is in place, it’s important that as a company, you’re constantly reviewing the safety standards that apply to your work and ensure that these standards are fully met by all employees. Demonstrating an ongoing, genuine commitment to workplace health and safety at all levels of the organization, from the top down is key. It is also critical to ensure that all workers are properly trained and supervised by competent personnel to work safely. Young and/or new workers tend to have more workplace injuries, largely due to inadequate training and supervision.

Make health and safety an integral part of organizational meetings, hiring, promoting, objectives, publications, and reviews. If you’re in need of additional support, have contact with a safety association, private consultant or the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for more information on ensuring your working conditions are as good as they can be.

Safety & Your Equipment

Forestry equipment manufacturers are making great strides in the name of safety on new machines. For example, the new John Deere L&M Series machines were designed so all filters, grease points and critical components are easily reached from ground level. Not only does this keep the operator safe from slips, but also reduces maintenance time.

Butch Lewis, owner of Lewis Logging, LLC, knows how these small machine upgrades make a big difference. "When you can fuel the machine standing on the ground, like you can on the new L-Series, there is no slippage getting on the machine or risk of letting an operator fall and get hurt," he said.

Chris Oates, operator for Lewis Logging, echoes this sentiment and is pleased with the difference these new features make in his routine maintenance checks. "It is a good safety feature when you don’t have to climb up on a machine to fuel it or grease it," said Oates. "It is much quicker when you can run around it and take care of your business versus older machines where you had to climb up."

John Deere has also gone to great lengths to increase visibility across its entire portfolio of forestry machines. The improved sightline on the front, sides and rear of the cab not only help to increase productivity, but it also keeps the operator safe giving more awareness of what is going on around them.

Practice Regular Safety Inspections

Without a doubt, safety inspections should also be an essential part of every logging operation’s safety routine. Not only are they necessary for the well being of your crew, they are also a crucial step to keep your machines operating efficiently and issue-free throughout a product’s lifecycle. Fortunately, these frequently overlooked practices are some of the easiest to perform, and typically don’t require a mechanic or specialist. Many inspections can be conducted monthly, while a few may be needed more often depending on your individual operating conditions.

Playing it safe with regular inspections will go a long way toward optimized working conditions for your crew, increased productivity, reduced downtime and lower overall operating costs. When in doubt, check with your dealer for additional information on safety inspections to incorporate in your maintenance routine.

Whether you are a new logging professional just starting out, or an established logging operation with years of experience, safety is good for your business. Good safety practices save lives, prevent injuries and improve your bottom line.