When it comes to our Canadian economy, the forestry industry provides a substantial source of wealth for the country. Our forestry trade balance (the difference between what we import and what we export to international partners) accounts for $19.8 billion of Canada’s GDP, according to the Government of Canada. This is equivalent to about 2% and represents the most substantial forest product trade balance in the world. We have held this position for years, and the gap between Canada and Sweden (the second-largest net trader) has been steadily increasing since 2009.
Geographically, we are the second-largest country in the world with an area of 979 million hectares; our forests make up nearly 40% of this coverage. According to Natural Resources Canada, the forestry industry employed approximately 209,040 Canadians and contributed revenues of $24.6 billion to our economy in 2017. Although it is not the main industry in Canada, it generates more jobs than any other primary resource industry. However, time and time again, the logging and forestry industry finds itself at the top of Canada’s most dangerous jobs list. This frequently leaves employees in the industry wondering if their salaries are even worth the risk. In this article, we will discuss the hazards associated with working in this sector, with a focus on lone workers in the forestry industry. We will also identify tactics to mitigate these risks.
Managing Key Industry Risks
Simply put, forestry is a perilous occupation. Several industry workers have called it a “3D” job: difficult, dirty, and dangerous. Some staff might even add a fourth “D” for deadly. Here are some of the unique risks associated with working in the forestry sector.
Falling trees and branches: In the process of tree felling, the risk of being hit by either the tree itself or falling branches is high. Removing branches before cutting the entire tree, as well as adhering to best practices concerning angle at which to cut, will mitigate the risk of injuries caused by falling tree parts.
Falling from heights: In the process of clear excess branches or limbs, the potential to fall from a height is evident. Workers must secure ladders, perhaps by tying them to the tree itself. Depending on the height, the use of a harness attached to a stable branch might be necessary. Find more tips on how to safely work from heights here.
Tool injuries: The nature of a lumber worker’s profession requires them to use a handful of specific (and potentially dangerous) tools. Chainsaw accidents are common, and although this tool simplifies the task of cutting down a tree, it can cause fatal injuries if not used properly.
Noise and vibration hazards: Tools required for work, like chainsaws previously mentioned, can be extremely noisy and damaging to employees’ hearing. If hearing protection is not worn, severe hearing loss can occur. Hand-arm vibration is also a considerable concern for workers who regularly use brush cutters, as well as chainsaws (although, most chainsaws now have vibration dampers that mitigate this issue). The consequences of repeated exposure to vibration negatively impact blood circulation in the hands and arms, as well as injure nerves, joints, tendons, and muscles.
Electrical hazards: The threat of electrocution is heightened when employees are required to work close to powerlines. Special care should be taken if branches or limbs have grown extremely close to electrical lines. Calling the power company to see if the lines can be temporarily shut off would help to manage the risks of an electrical accident.
Forestry Workers Often Work Alone
In unison with several of the risks mentioned above, employees who work in the forestry sector are often required to perform their duties in isolation and in a remote location. Protecting lone workers in the forestry sector is essential, and although monitoring all your workers on-site may seem like a daunting task, it can easily be accomplished with a safety solution like SafetyLine.
Trusted in safety since 1999, SafetyLine Lone Worker is an automated solution that monitors and protects lone workers using cloud-based technology and mobile data, in unison with a website that delivers regularly updated safety-related content. It uses proactive check-in timers that support a fail-proof check-in system – if an employee misses a check-in, a monitor is notified of a potential emergency and the organization can act accordingly. Emergency panic buttons also allow employees to signal for help with a push of a button or a shake of their phone. Compatible on all your existing devices, SafetyLine also incorporates motion features including man-down detection and fall detection. You can learn more about the benefits of a fall detection system here.
Implementing a safety solution like SafetyLine Lone Worker will ensure the safety of your employees on the job, whether they are driving to the site, cutting down a tree, or loading lumber.