Manual tree falling is the most frequent cause of fatal accidents in motor-manual forest harvesting operations and is recognized as one of the most dangerous occupations worldwide. British Columbia is no exception and given the unique and diverse forest ground, climate, and stand conditions around the province, the estimated 2,000 active fallers often face demanding and dangerous tasks.
WorkSafeBC has long recognized the potential of mechanization as a means of improving safety in forest operations. The recent rapid developments and implementation of winch-assist technology have provided a platform for wider application of mechanized operations.
Since information gaps in regards to operability limits, safe operating procedures, best management practices, and inspection and maintenance protocols are still being addressed and not fully developed, WorkSafeBC solicited proposals to address the following question : Under What Conditions is Mechanical Harvesting Going to be a Safer Alternative to Manual Tree Falling in B.C.?
In answer to WorkSafeBC’s request for proposal, FPInnovations completed a study and produced a comprehensive report entitled Mechanized Harvesting, a Safer Alternative to Manual Tree Falling. The report is now publicly available on the Steep Slope Initiative website.
There were seven main topics addressed in the study:
1. Challenges faced in B.C. with adopting the safest technology in tree falling
2. How the B.C. industry can best transition into safer tree harvesting
3. The type of training programs required to adopt mechanical harvesting
4. Review of technologies available worldwide that have potential use in B.C., and how their injury rates and fatality rates compare
5. Review of existing science and research needs for developing international standards on safe operations for winch-assist systems
6. Development of best management practices for winch-assist systems
7. Physiographic conditions affecting the feasibility of adopting mechanical harvesting
Some key findings from the study:
• Removing workers from exposure to overhead hazards and placing them in rollover/falling object protective structures, i.e., protected cabs, will almost always improve worker safety.
• The biggest challenges of adopting the safest tree-falling technology in B.C. are the lack of operator training and lack of adequate best management practices.
• The transition toward safer harvesting should focus on increasing the safe operating range of mechanized harvesting equipment that protects workers in machine cabs.
• Greater government support is needed for operator training.
• In order to transition to safer tree falling, more expertise on planning and layout for new steep-slope harvesting is needed, and WorkSafeBC should emphasize the importance of planning for safe practices in the steep slope assessment and layout phase.
For more information, please contact Dzhamal Amishev.