The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

Safety will become the number one issue

....I believe that in the next five years some of the most difficult management –labor negotiations this forest industry has ever gone through are going to center around the subject of safety. I don’t mean the old type hard hat—or steel toed—or lifejacket problems of the past.
....These were simply very natural precautions that with a small amount of discipline, workmen were convinced were beneficial to their well being. No, the bargaining table of the next few years will be full of far more sophisticated ideas of safety than the good old hard hat.
....And why—why will this subject be such a difficult one to solve and satisfy all concerned? Because this industry’s record of fatals and accidents to our Can-adian people has not improved as it should have. In the B.C. logging industry 60 persons who were a part of that industry lost their lives due to industrial accidents in 1973. How does that com-pare with the figure five years ago in 1968? Then 58 lost their lives. And in 1963 50 men died. In the past 10 years the average fatal accident rate in our B.C. woods has been 52 people per year. Fifty-two!
....To put more emphasis on these deadly statistics the percentage betterment for the five year period of 1958 – 1962 (inclusive) as against 1968 – 1972 is a mere 14.5 percent improvement. And yet in these same periods we embarked on wonderfully improved machines for logging. We increased production all along the line. We even made the work load easier and less back breaking for so many with our new tools—and yet a mere 14.5 percent improvement in our B.C. logging fatals figure.
....Putting aside the emotion, sorrow and shock of these deaths, I don’t think there is a logging company, successfully in business, who would accept such a figure as 14.5 percent

improvement in it’s production or bank figures for those times. They would be broke if they did. So from a hard cold, so-called business point of view—we are not improving as we should. That is the issue that is most obvious and must be tackled head on in a far different manner than in the past
....My figures are supplied from the files of the B.C. Workers’ Compen-sation Board. And I take no issue with the many, many dedicated men and women from all ranks who have devoted themselves to the betterment of this industry’s production safety. It has been shown conclusively where a group of companies such as the B.C. council of Forest Industries, or individual companies have set yup sincere and workable safety departments, the improvements are visible. But have they even been good enough? Fatals are not a statistic similar to production that you can say will improve by 10 or 30 percent next year—the only goal is zero—there is no other way to look at it, for here we deal with the only real asset that means something—human life.
....I became interested in the safety movement a long time ago and have written and spoken on the subject for 20 years now. I have met a lot of people in this industry who were deeply concerned with saving people’s lives and bodies from industrial harm. We are fortunate to have had these caring people. But I have seen also the apathy—the lack of discipline, the carelessness, and possibly worst of all, the people in high places—in government, in management and in unions who don’t realize the potential power they hold to really do something for the realistic elimination of our fatals.
....As one reads through the fatal accident reports for the past 16 years, it is appalling—the similarity of deaths.
Carelessness, forgetfulness, and false familiarity, these are the harbingers of death to so many forest workers — 873 people in 16 years. It will be over 900 when the 1974 toll is counted. This will be the issue.
....Common sense tells us there is no chairman of the board, no union president, no manager and no individual who does not care about these deaths. Certainly they and we all care. But do we care enough—or have we grown so used to wars, bombings, riots and uncivilized acts that our minds are a bit dulled to industrial death?
....Life in business or at work, or even at home is a fast pace today. There is so much to be done—and too often so little time. Are we sensitive enough to the needs of others? And are we over-sensitive and ostrich-like to the unpleasantness around us? Philoso-phical - possibly - but if our common sense cannot be relied upon to improve the fatals then other means must be found if we are to call ourselves civilized humans. And what are those other means and how effective can they be?
....Several ways have been used — partially! Legislation by government. Negotiation by management and labor leaders. Discussion and resolution of work-force safety committees. All these methods have improved, to a degree, our safety records. But they apparently have not been able to cope with the realities of woods safety. Fourteen and a half percent reduction in fatals in 15 years will not be a good enough record for labor’s negotiations in these years ahead.
....Those who live and work in the day to day problems of logging generally feel quite differently about what is safe and what isn’t safe than do those whose responsibility it is to oversee safety—be they management or union or government. Our Workers’ Comp-
British Columbia Lumberman, January, 1975

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ensation Rule Book covers nearly all the pitfalls that exist for the unwary logger. And yet no rule book has a heart or a tongue and there could never be enough compensation in-spectors to cover all areas properly. The industry is too large and too scattered. There are many good, careful managers but the complications of mobile machinery and men, as we have today, does not allow enough eyes in the head of a manager. The buddy system is good where applied—but I wouldn’t want to trust my life to it always.
....What I believe is at fault more than anything else over the years has been the inability of top management and labor leaders to really join together as fellow men—forgetting the bargaining table war, and determine a new set of disciplines. And I do not speak of discipline in the old sense. But this industry and its people cry out for a discipline that will make every one of us involved realize that logging is a dangerous business.
....It cannot tolerate a careless work force nor careless management. And in order to make our industry realize these facts there must be far more involvement—jointly and in sincerity — by the leaders of management and unions.
....I can hear now certain companies, who have pretty good safety records
say: “But we are doing our part. We have a good record.” My answer is—if you’ve got your company into a sound safety program, then the rest of the industry needs your help too. Get out and lend a hand. For only at the top are people listened to. Very few chokermen get quoted in our daily papers—but executives do, from union and management. We need those voices.
....This industry needs a new attitude towards the unnecessary and pointless reality that we lose over 50 people a year to death toll. We cannot afford to lose over 50 people a year. We cannot afford the suffering, or the sorrow, or the waste of dollars. Something could be done and something needs to be done to bring about a new or different attitude toward logging safety.
It’s time our management and union leaders — the big names — gathered together in their privacy and with their advisors, determined a path to follow to lead the way in a war on fatals and accidents.
....Casting aside all the prejudices of the past and all the problems they face, they should show the people it is their responsibility to lead, that they are united
in their determination to do something about the elimination of senseless industrial death. They hold the power to do it.

....Otherwise, as I have stated at the beginning of this article, the issue will go to bargaining table warfare and the old bitternesses stand ready to rear up. There will be emotion on such an issue and the emotion played up by the press could well ruin any real chance of a change of attitude toward safety.
....Meanwhile, there are sensible people in our industry, in our Workers’ Compensation Board, and others standing by who daily go about doing what they can. These are the dedicated and to them our grateful thanks.
....But common sense must prevail The attitude toward logging safety can be made better and results can be obtained. And far better it be done away from the table by our leaders in mutual understanding., than by nego-tiations under pressure to put a contract together.
....We have intelligent leaders in management and in union in this forest around us. Let us hope they can see the light and bring to bear their power on the elimination of logging industrial fatals and accidents.

........ Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, January, 1975