Fatality Alert Update - BCFSC # 2013-10-21

Safety Alert Type: 
Booming and Towing
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
BC Forest Safety
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

Updated on April 15, 2014: On October 21st of 2013, a cedar salvager was fatally injured near Sayward, BC.

The investigation into this incident is ongoing and the results will be released as soon as possible. However, some general information about the hazards present at the incident site is known. The following update will provide suggested best practices to manage these types of hazards.

Learnings and Suggestions: 

Slope Instability:

  • Professionals and others developing harvest or salvage plans and overseeing forest activities need to be aware of the resources and expertise available to them that will assist in planning and implementing safe operations. Engineering and Geoscience consultants and terrain stability maps are examples.
  • Removal of logs that have been down for a significant period of time can negatively affect the stability of the slope and the stability of surrounding trees. This is especially important in cedar salvaging operations where the downed logs may have been on the ground for many years.
  • Rainfall measurement is important for operations on potentially unstable slopes. Develop guidelines that will move operations to safer areas when soils become saturated, unstable and prone to slides.
  • Guidelines for operating on potentially unstable slopes have been developed with heavy equipment operations in mind, such as logging and road building. However, it is important to recognize that small scale operations such as bucking of cedar for salvage purposes can also impact slope stability and worker safety.

Danger Trees:

  • Areas that have been subject to damaging wind storms often create hazardous leaning and blown down trees. Sites that have experienced wind events over long periods of time can have significant accumulations of trees leaning in random directions, trees with broken tops and standing dead trees in various stages of decay.
  • Dangerous trees must be removed from worksites if there is a risk that they could strike a worker. If they are to be hand felled, a certified faller must do this work. The faller or falling supervisor will be able to assess if the danger trees can be felled safely or if danger tree blasting or other means are required. As an alternative, the trees can be assessed by a certified Danger Tree Assessor to determine if they are safe and if not develop a plan to minimize the risk to the worker, for example a no work zone.
  • Helicopter operations create a significant amount of downwash that can jar loose overhead hazards which can strike workers. Make sure the worksite is free of danger trees, hung up branches, dead tops and other dangers that can come down to strike workers.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn correctly and during all phases of an operation. Danger trees are significant overhead hazards and can be overlooked. Your hard hat will provide some protection if one of those unseen hazards comes down.

Blowdown Operations:

  • Working in a stand of blown down trees presents many hazards. When logging or salvaging in these sites, the downed trees are subject to bind and loading that is not usually present at most sites.
  • Unexpected movement of stumps is a significant hazard when logging in blow down stands. Bucking the logs and removing the weight of the stem may cause the stump to rapidly flip back upright or roll downhill if located on a steep slope.
  • Many falling and bucking incidents are the result of chain reactions on steep ground. A tree falls or log moves which jars something loose, which rolls or moves and hits the worker. Think about how your actions will affect the work environment and ensure that your actions will not create any chain reactions.

Emergency Response Planning:

  • Good emergency response planning includes testing communications and providing adequate resources to treat and move injured workers. Emergency plans need to take into consideration barriers to evacuation like steep slopes, blow down and large watercourses.
  • First Aid Assessments completed for operations with a small number of workers often indicate that only small amounts of first aid training and equipment are required. Consider additional equipment and personnel for remote worksites and high hazard work especially where there are barriers that will delay the evacuation of injured workers to a hospital.
  • Helicopter evacuation – if the only way to evacuate an injured worker is by air then you must have a helicopter available. Weather can be a limiting factor in helicopter availability and needs to be taken into account.
  • GPS coordinates should be available for the site as well as detailed, written driving directions to the site. If there is an emergency, these directions can be easily communicated to an emergency dispatcher. If a trail is required to access the worksite, it should be marked with flagging and cleared to aid moving an injured worker.

Small scale salvage operations warrant the same level of supervision or pre-planning as any other harvesting operation. The company owners, supervisors and professionals involved in planning these operations must make sure that potential hazards such as unstable ground or hazardous trees are identified and the workers in those operations are made aware of them and understand how to manage the risks.

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