For those brave souls who make their living in the logging industry, “Timber” is a very familiar word to warn fellow workers that a tree in their area is being felled. According to NIOSH (National Institute for Safety and Health), logging has been one of the most consistently hazardous industries, with a fatality rate 23 times higher than the rate of other dangerous occupations. The Bureau of Labor statistics shows that there are 81 fatalities per 100,000 workers.
By many measures, logging is the most dangerous occupation in the United States. The tools and equipment such as chain saws and logging machines pose hazards wherever they are used. As loggers use their tools and equipment, they deal with massive weights and irresistible momentum of falling, rolling, and sliding trees and logs. The hazards are even worse when dangerous environmental conditions are factored in, such as uneven, unstable or rough terrain; inclement weather including rain, snow, lightning, winds, and extreme cold and/or remote and isolated work sites where health care facilities are not immediately accessible. The combination of these hazards present a significant risk to employees working in logging operations throughout the country, regardless of the type of timber being logged, where it is logged, or the end use of the wood.
According to Eric Johnson, editor of Northern Logging and Timber Processing magazine, mechanized equipment has helped to make logging safer. Loggers now often sit in steel enclosed cabs of big machines, rather than working with chainsaws on the ground. Controls send chain saws out onto tree trunks from a safer distance. Heavy machines and equipment are used to cut trees to be transported to a log mill. Logging contractors are hired by industries such as agriculture, commercial businesses, industrial plants, and government agencies, as well as individual homeowners.
Loggers can get crushed when trees fall in the wrong direction. Large broken branches from up in the treetops often fall unexpectedly as the trees come down. These are called “widow makers”. Medical care is often very far away, so in the event of an injury, it takes a long time to get the attention the worker may need.
Logging companies must follow OSHA regulations in great detail. Workers must be properly trained, and be provided with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment: gloves, hardhats, safety glasses, and face protection, as well steel-toe boots. Well-stocked first aid kits should be at each work location and in each worker transportation vehicle.
We give our logging workers a big “High Five”! It takes special folks to do what they do.