Logging supervision. ....

by Bill Moore....


....It would seem to me that if no one had ever introduced and enforced the certification of seamanship for coastal mates, captains and pilots our water-ways would be a disaster area of accidents and deaths. There is risk at sea, but the risk is minimized by having knowledgeable and certified people supervising the movements of ships on the waterways. Safety is there because there is a discipline at work through certified supervision.
....And our skies. Airplane pilots on a graded system that they must earn, by time on the job and by graduated cer-tification as they handle bigger and more sophisticated aircraft. Our skies are as safe as they are because there is a discipline at work through certified supervision.
....Logging is one of the most dangerous jobs in Canada’s basic in-dustries. It has seen too many men die because of careless acts or a moment of forgetfulness of well repeated safety rules. The figures are appalling. One thousand and thirty three loggers have died in on-the-job accidents in British Columbia in the past 20 years. If that’s reaching too far back for you, 443 loggers have died in the past 10 years from on-the-job accidents. The last 10 years have shown some improvement over the period of 1959 – 68, but the figures are still appalling. And remember these are loggers, not sawmill people or shingle or plywood people. Just loggers – and just in British Columbia’s logging industry.
....There can be no question that the introduction and enforcement of safety clothing, hard hats, etc. etc. have played their part in reducing the ter-rible figures from an average of 59 in the earlier 10-year period to an average of 44 in this last 10-year period.
....We have, to a great degree, won the battle of getting the work force to wear protective gear. The insistence and patience have paid off. But now the problem becomes more compli-cated. We now have to count on a


more psychological approach to our loggers to instill in them a self-discipline that can and will further reduce the awful death rate.
....I suppose there could be many theories as to how to approach this very challenging problem. Should we flood the workforce with more posters, announcements, safety meetings on the need for a safer industry? Should we penalize those who are injured or near injured, in some manner, thereby emphasizing to the work force the need for more alertness? Or should we levy heavy fines on management for having too many accidents? Maybe there is some merit in some of these theories, but I believe that instead of finding scapegoats for what is wrong with our industry, we should – each of us –

Accident rates

management, union, and government through the Workers Compensation Board – decide on the best single approach to the dilemma.
....When we talk of logging in B.C. or the supervision of loggers in B.C., we’d better remember we are discussing a wide range of differing supervision. The interior of our province is now a very mechanical style of operation with skidders, feller-bunchers, crawlers and trucks absorbing a great portion of the logging work force. Coastal logging is becoming more mechanical but still uses many men who do not run machines, and do walk and work in amongst the felled and bucked timber.
....So the terms of reference to supervision may differ in different locales. But where there are a number of loggers gathered together at a marshalling yard, the supervision of those men will require

an ever-increasing demand for better and better qualified line bosses. The mere fact that companies are now putting such large sums of money into new, huge sophisticated machines calls for better qualified people – employee and supervisor.
....The logging industry has always lacked enough good qualified super-visory people. Because of the always present hazards in logging, the job requires skilled supervisors as well as skilled employees if the accidents are to be held to a minimum and logging is to be carried out in a safe productive manner.
....Anyone who has spent time in the woods knows the dangers inherent in sloppy or unknowledgeable super-vision to everyone concerned. Not only will it be dangerous to be around such a crew, but production will definitely suffer.
....With the shortage of skilled people today the problem of supervision is only intensified by promoting men too fast and thereby endangering the employees that these nouveau super-visors look after. In the coastal area this is a common occurrence in the jobs of rigging-slingers and hook-tenders on high lead sides. A look at the yarding and loading accident statistics for the past two years will testify to this.
....Loggers are hired on their own say-so. Some references are used by a few companies. But in the main, of the thousands of loggers working in B.C., they hold jobs on their ability to produce, and they are hired on their vocal merits to an employment agency or camp personnel.
....The lack of good supervision – and resultant appallingly high accident rates and undoubtedly poorer production – would come about by several con-tributing factors, over the years, on the part of management and labor:
....(1) The lack of interest – in depth – that has been paid to logging by the boards of directors and bureaucracy of large companies in contrast to their

page 45  
British Columbia Lumberman, January, 1980

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - (. page break )

closely-watched manufacturing and marketing. There is a mystique to logging that not only the public does not understand, but that decision makers do not understand, and thereby leave so many important policy decisions to someone down the ladders. Some companies have han-dled this situation better than others, but I state that this lack of under-standing has caused the logging por-tion of most big companies to have few champions.
....(2) The lack of public knowledge of the high accident and fatals rate has allowed the problem to be kept at in-dustry level. Whereas when high traffic accident or airplane accidents occur, an aroused public 1 spurred on by the media – will demand action be taken. The very fact that accidents happen in the back-woods takes the spectacular out of it for the media.
....(3) The bargaining table warfare that existed through the years between labor and management, and their dis-trust of each other, has left its mark on many employees. Our negotiations have certainly improved, but things like seniority clauses sometimes protect the careless worker. His “brothers” will not condemn him for carelessness and it is difficult to therefore fire him for “just cause.” Such careless people are a hazard to all others who work around them. Most union leaders dislike the words “careless worker.” Indeed!
....(4) As we have moved, through the years, into bigger and more soph-isticated machinery, not near enough attention has been given to the modern requirements of supervisors – from down in the ranks on up. The ability to produce logs is really all that counts in most companies, large or small. Whereas the needed ability to com-municate with people about you, and to be able to motivate a crew, are something a young supervisor has not been familiar with. There is a real need to take young loggers who have served some time in the woods back into the classroom and give them the benefit of modern day “people training” as is normal with so many other occupations. I understand the Workers Compensation Board of B.C. is looking at such programs – and one can only say it’s about time.
....Loggers can never have “good enough” supervision, it can always be bettered simply because the occu-pation is so hazardous and the toll is so high.
....We need new courses to be written up for our schools – possibly such as BCIT or others that would allow the loggers with logging experience to


study such subjects as “people com-munications” and “motivation of people” and possibly accounting. This would broaden the skills of would-be supervisors.
....The studies must be meaningful and should not be of a compulsory nature in the first few years. The courses should be on a graduated level, and certification given when the person has completed so many years of exper-ience in the woods, and has passed the course of studies. There could possibly be four gradients of certification, allowing those that want to return for further studies and a higher class of certificate.
....There is always a pride of achieve-ment to those who work and study for a high status in their chosen profession. Why should loggers be any different than anyone else? A certificate on the wall, in itself, does not mean status, but if the knowledge of true achievement is there, the applicant can be justifiably proud.
....I see little point in one group pointing a finger at another group today in our logging industry and laying the blame for our high accident rate. There are not – and never will be – enough WCB inspectors to cover all the problem areas of logging in B.C. And to lay the blame on inspectors or inspections does not seem realistic to me. The WCB law is written and is continually updated with new laws to handle new situations.

....It is the supervisor’s responsibility to have his crew and workings in proper shape at all times – not just when the inspector comes round. And it behooves the union leaders to get more into the business of telling their members to keep alert on the job. I haven’t seen many union leaders out on the logging sides lately – alongside a management man, telling and retelling and retelling the need of safe pro-duction. And I also haven’t heard of the tracksides and felled and bucked areas being overrun by top mana-gement either, of late.
....There is no use in anyone laying blame this late down the road. Co-operation, co-ordination, patience, un-derstanding, and hard work by all con-cerned union, management and WCB personnel can work together suc-cessfully and bring the death and accident toll down.
....High on the list of priorities for their working together should be a new program of studies as outlined – leading to a form a graduated certi-fication for logging supervisors. Such a program can only bring all the people in our industry a better status in the eyes of the public.
....Let’s make this forest around us a safer place in which to work.

.........................Keep out of the bight,
..........................................Bill Moore

British Columbia Lumberman, January, 1980  
page 47