October 2011 - Overhead Hazards

Safety Alert Type: 
British Columbia
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
BC Forest Safety Council
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

Heads Up for Hazards

The surveyor had just finished throwing her last plot of the day when the wind picked up. She marked the plot center and pocketed her marker. The cool fall wind, which had been consistent all day now suddenly picked up as the clouds moved in threatening rain or snow. ‘Perfect timing’ she thought as she turned and began picking her way through the block back to the truck. Now that it was late October, her boss wanted the crew to be off the bush roads before dark. At this time of year daylight faded quickly and the area was prone to sudden weather changes. The radio crackled to life “You planning on spending the night? Let’s go!” From high on the block she could see her partner Sam was already back at the truck. “Yeah, yeah I’m coming. Looks like just in time too. I think it might snow.” She replied. There was a brief pause then Sam was back on “Yeah, I couldn’t hear any of that with the wind. Just hurry up”

She picked her way down the hill and headed towards where the truck was parked at the block entrance. Sam was sitting on the tailgate as she approached. She reached the top of the embankment and started down to the road when a sharp snap caught her attention. Turning to face the treeline she saw a spruce branch had broken free and was sailing towards her. She ducked instinctively as the branch swept past and landed heavily on the road between her and Sam. “Holy geez!” Sam exclaimed “Let’s get out of here before the rest of the tree comes down too!”

Overhead hazards are an issue for all forestry workers - whether you are a field tech working alongside a retention patch, a log hauler removing wrappers from a load or an equipment operator leaving the cab to perform an inspection.

Learnings and Suggestions: 

  • Worksites should be cleared of overhead and other hazards as possible. Identified hazards should be clearly marked and communicated to the crew.
  • It may be helpful to familiarize workers and supervisors with the Beaufort wind scale (see attached example) to recognize hazard levels while in the field.
  • Company policies around wind and weather events should be reviewed periodically and all workers should be aware of evacuation procedures.
  • Companies may wish to add overhead hazards to their pre-work inspection or site inspection form.
  • Supervisors may wish to encourage reporting from their crew, then act quickly to correct them once reported. Closing off with the crew by discussing how the hazard was dealt with shows workers the company is committed to the safety management system and will help to encourage future reporting.
  • Where possible do not stop or park vehicles or mobile equipment where there is an obvious hazard.
  • During orientations all workers should be made aware of potential hazards including those that seem ‘common sense’
  • It is recommended practice for field workers to check the weather forecast prior to heading into the bush for the day and prepare accordingly.


For more information on this submitted alert: 

Additional Resources

Beaufort Scale

Reprinted with permission from the Mount Washington Observatory

BC Forest Safety Council RADAR packages – Sector specific information on recognizing risks.

File attachments

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