The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

The Challenge

....The forest around us is a challenge. It is a challenge to man’s ingenuity—to his resourcefulness — to his compas-sion, and to his life on earth tomorrow. Too often in days gone by, and in present days, man has not used his ingenuity well. He has not been as resourceful as he should or could be, and his needed compassion has at times been swept aside by a passion for dollars.
....But the greatest challenge—that of a man’s life—has not been conquered in our forests, in what we term the logging industry. I have written before of the loss of life in logging, particularly here in British Columbia. It is a sad and painful story of an average of over v50 deaths per year in the past 20 years. These figures do not take into account the pulp or sawmill industries—just logging.
....Why? Why would so many loggers have to die each year? Is it such a dangerous industry that we have to expect to lose 50 men’s lives each year in order to harvest our trees? Is this the challenge? Must this be the toll in order that houses be built, that newspapers be read. Is this the challenge?
....I will repeat—the average death toll in B.C. is over 50 loggers per year for the past 20 years! Please think about it if you are a reader of this forest magazine. As such you share in some small way the responsibility of this awesome burden. All of us in this industry share this burden—and the challenge will only be met and con-quered when all of us decide to really do something about it.
....Yes, we have a Workers’ Compen-sation Board that has dedicated men and women who do care and do work at the prevention of logging accidents and fatals. And yes, we have dedicated and caring people in various company safety organizations. The Council of

Forest Industries has a fine safety organization with excellent field men who travel throughout the industry, working for the safety of the logger. Our Inte-national Woodworkers Union has always had top flight men heading up its safety division. These and many others care and work for better safety in our industry.
....But it is not enough. For if it were enough, the record would be better. Over 50 deaths a year is not near good enough. Somewhere along the way we are failing in a responsibility that has to be shared by all who derive their living from this forest industry. And why the apparent dedication to safety shared by so many—and yet the statistics do not show the kind of improvement we should expect.
....I am going to look at the situation in your categories. I do not intend to hurt feelings—but I believe we must be very open about this terrible challenge.
First I would look at management. Has it done enough? Does it do enough to prevent these repeated deaths? My answer after many years on the subject is—no. Many individual companies tell me that their company’s safety record is better now than it used to be. They have better safety divi-sions than they used to have. I say fine. But these same companies—and more particularly their top leaders — must realize that there is logging going on in this province outside of their own companies that do not have these improving records. And that it is only to the betterment of all to have not just an individual company record—but a better industry record. These leaders of these companies must step forward into this problem and put their weight behind lowering that awful death toll to all our loggers. This industry needs a never ending campaign such as a cancer drive or a heart fund to alert
our loggers to the need for their own safety. If we can finance sophisticated machines into the woods to harvest our trees—then we should be able to finance sophisticated methods to make sure that loggers don’t die by the fifties each year. It will take time and money to accomplish this task, and I have not yet seen where enough of either have been spent by management to get the job done properly.
....Then there is the union. They share the fault too, for it is their members who die. I am certain that the age-old bitternesses between union leaders and management leaders at the bar-gaining table over these past many years, has done a great deal of harm to what should be a combined op-eration by management and labor for better safety. The need for these leaders to forget all else in their desire for saving the lives of loggers was never stronger than now. Only they hold the power to enforce badly needed discipline. And I speak of disciplines in a real sense. A logger must be constantly reminded that he works in danger. A reading of the fatals over the past 20 years is filled with the same general cause of death—carelessness and forgetfulness. We must find better ways to guard the logger from these faults. He needs a better discipline that will not let him be careless nor forgetful.
....One thought on the need for this discipline—I deplore those in management who would use it as a means of unfair punishment to a logger. And I likewise deplore those in labor who try to overprotect those loggers who have been careless.
....Can we expect more from the leaders of management and union? Can they sincerely meet together—apart from the old prejudices and truly work together to alert our industry
British Columbia Lumberman, February, 1975

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to its failure to conquer fatalities. I wonder! Or will they continue to leave it all delegated to the middle management and the shop stewards along with the Wor-kers’ Compensation Board to fight the battle. I say if you’re a leader then get out and lead!
....Have the safety divisions of companies, unions, and combined management done enough? My only answer to this question, and knowing so many dedicated people in this field is ‘You will do the job right when you get the money to do the job right.’ A good friend of mine, and a man who knows the safety road well once told me—“you want safety?” “Then how much are you prepared to pay for it?” Truer words were never spoken.
....And now what of the individual logger. The man himself. Has he done enough for his own safety? Of course not, for he too must share this burden with all others. I have heard so-called intelligent people say “Well it’s up to the logger himself.” So it is—is it? Well since when did armies run without generals! Name me one private that won a war. Loggers and their safety will only be as good as the direction and intelligent supervision they are given. Possibly it is too easily forgotten by those who aren’t in the logging scene each day in the woods, just what it is like. It’s like this—
....Rainy, hot, steep hillsides, mud, a tanglewood of limbs, brush and logs, cold, windy, noisy power saw, falling limbs, moving logs, hard muscle work, cold sandwiches in the rain, snow—to hell with it! That’s what it’s like.
....Oh yes—there’s the glory—but that doesn’t occur too often. Maybe in logging sports—but not out here where the action is.
....So it’s up to the individual logger. Sure it is, and he knows it, but you see there are all these other things in his way—and on his mind. He needs some help. He needs his leaders, both in management and union to worry a little bit less about cussing each other out and to collectively look after his life. He needs to be reminded about forgetfulness and carelessness—just like policemen remind motorists about safe driving.
....Put 40,000 drivers in 40,000 cars and put them on a freeway with no authority or no discipline and I think you could imagine the results. But give them authority and discipline and ther’s a good chance they will all get home at night.
....There must be a better way. We can’t allow this death rate in our logging industry to continue. We are our brother’s keeper, and the most precious thing we all possess is our
life. The methods of accident preven-tion have not kept pace with the times. There are too many areas where accident prevention is simply not taught.
....The power saw, for instance, has been a wonderful machine for our industry. But it is incredible to read of the victim died with a saw or where a saw played a part in his death. This statistic will make you wonder about modern machinery.

....Can this industry borrow from such movements as a cancer drive or a heart fund to challenge our logging fatals? Can we be sincere in this effort—jointly—or must it go to the bargaining table warfare. Surely there is a way to beat this challenge

Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, February, 1975