2013-06-30 - Forest Harvesting Fatality Update

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

From 2010 to 2013 YTD, the industry has experienced 29 fatalities as shown in the following graph.

So far in 2013, the industry has experienced an unusually high number of fatal injuries. Here is a summary of the 6 direct harvesting related fatalities that have occurred to date as reported on WorkSafeBC’s incident summary website.

January 7 - An empty logging truck heading east on Highway 16 collided with the trailer of a loaded lumber transport truck heading west that had jack-knifed. A third transport truck collided with the accident scene. The operator of the empty logging truck later succumbed to his injuries at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

April 8 - An off highway log truck driver suffered fatal head injuries while attempting to cut two logs with a chainsaw, the two logs had fallen from the top of the load and were suspended in the binders.

April 30 - On January 21, 2013, a worker fell from the tracks of a feller-buncher.

May 27 - A grader was grading uphill on a gravel road with a 10 percent slope, preparing for a logging operation. For an unknown reason, the grader reversed out of control and proceeded down the slope backwards. It is believed that the operator exited the grader while it was travelling backwards and was subsequently crushed by the grader blade.

May 30 - The driver of a water truck backed up along a narrow section of Forest Service Road. The vehicle approached the edge of the road surface where the tire on the passenger side of the vehicle went off the road. The vehicle tipped over travelling approximately 110 metres down a 100% slope where it struck a tree and fatally injured the driver.

June 11 - A worker was using a front-end loader to move a large fuel tank across a 24-percent sloped portion of the access road to a barge landing. The machine rolled onto its side, throwing the worker out the door and resulting in fatal crush injuries.

There were also 3 fatalities that were related to forestry operations but involved the public or workers from a different industry.

January 7 - A loaded logging truck met a pickup on a single lane bridge on a forestry service road which resulted in a collision. The pickup driver suffered fatal injuries.

January 14 - A collision occurred between a log truck and a passenger vehicle on Highway 118 at Shoulder Tower Road, approximately 12km south of Granisle. The 57 year old driver of the passenger vehicle succumbed to his injuries.

March 14 - An empty logging truck travelling east bound on highway 97 met a west bound snowplough and in the ensuing whiteout conditions, the logging truck and a single axle cube cargo van (which had been following the snowplough) collided resulting in fatal injuries to the van driver.

Learnings and Suggestions: 

All of these incidents involved mobile equipment or log trucks and there are common factors that contributed to these fatalities. Some of these investigations are still underway so this alert will not try to identify the causes. However, there are general themes that are emerging from these incidents that should be shared within the industry.

  • Equipment Rollovers – Even for experienced operators there is a risk of rollovers due the steep and uneven terrain often seen on forestry operations. Make sure to have the right equipment for the job, identify the areas where problems may occur (like operating across side slopes) before the work is started and developed alternate plans if necessary.
  • ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structures) on equipment are designed to stand up to severe roll over incidents. However, they will only protect workers if they are inside the cab and wearing their seatbelts.
  • Head on collisions are one of the most severe types of vehicle collisions. Avoid or reduce the severity of head on collisions by slowing down as quickly as possible, steering to the right to avoid the vehicle, and if you are going to collide try to hit with a glancing blow rather than straight on to reduce some of the impact energy.
  • Identifying unseen sources of energy is an important step during lock-out procedures and during our daily work. Think about:
    • How is that load is going to affect the handling of the truck?
    • Are those logs under tension or compression?
    • What is the potential for rollover on that slope?

    Ask “what if” questions throughout the day as a way to pick up on hazards that you may not have seen before.

  • Establish safe zones for ground workers that may be interacting with mobile equipment. Give workers exact information on how far to stay away from machines and inform operators where the safe zones are located. Monitor, test worker’s knowledge and enforce these safe working distances and zones.
  • Injuries resulting from falls, including falls from equipment, occur at a high frequency in forestry.  Between 2007 and 2011 there were 1,515 fall injuries that resulted in WorkSafeBC claims. These types of injuries can be severe especially for our aging workforce. Training operators and drivers about 3 point contact will reduce the frequency and severity of these falls.
  • Resources:

    1. Toolbox Talks from Caterpillar – includes crew safety talks dealing with operating on slopes, equipment mounting and dismounting and many others.
    2. Seatbelt Safety Video – also from Caterpillar. It explains why seatbelts are important in roll-over incidents.
    3. Not using 3 point contact to exit the cab of your truck or machine? Try this simulator from the Trucking Safety Council of BC to see the impact on your body.

Update From 2013-08-28 Safety Alert

Two fatalities that were earlier reported as being directly related to harvesting have been reclassified. The May 30th incident involving a water truck driver has been identified by WorkSafeBC as having a core activity of transmission line installation. The April 30th incident involving a worker falling off the tracks of a buncher has been reclassified as a result of the Coroner’s Office determining that the worker died of natural causes.

These fatalities are still significant and relevant to forestry operations but will no longer be classified as direct harvesting incidents. The number of direct harvesting fatalities is now at 8.

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