Ontario logger John FlemingBUILDING BUSINESS—and a safe workplace

Ontario logger John Fleming has won two health and safety awards, and has found that in addition to helping build a safe workplace, the awards have helped build his business.

By Meg Parker

This past September was significant for Fleming’s Trucking and Logging: the Ontario company was on the receiving end of two awards from health and safety association Workplace Safety North (WSN) in its forestry and small business categories.

John Fleming (right, in front of logs) with employees and part of the equipment they use in their cut-to-length operation in Ontario hardwoods.

The WSN President’s Award recognizes the top health and safety performers in Ontario’s mining, forestry, paper, printing, and converting sectors, as well as small businesses in northern Ontario, based on safety performance over the past two calendar years.

Based out of St. Joseph Island near Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario, John Fleming is a long-time logger who has seven employees, including his wife, Melissa Fleming, as office manager, and his father-in-law, Bryon Hall, as safety coordinator.

“I’m a fourth generation logger, and my dad has been logging about 60 years. I’ve been working with him since I was old enough to ride in the truck,” says Fleming, who is vice-president of the company. “My dad is 76 now and still working with us every day.”

Over the decades, they have gone from using horses to the latest mechanical harvesting equipment, and now have a cut-to-length system that Fleming says is working really well for them in Ontario’s hardwoods. The majority of their wood is maple, beech, oak, and birch.

As a small business owner, Fleming admits it’s hard to find the time to do everything. But he considers health and safety to be a solid business investment. “If you’re going to be in business, sometimes you have to invest in different things,” he explains. “I invest in lots of machinery and the last thing I want to do is have somebody come in and shut me down. I decided to hire somebody on a part-time basis to handle safety because I wanted to make sure, when the Ministry of Labour comes to visit, that our health and safety program, including paperwork and training, is up to date.”

Ontario logger John FlemingEquipment on the move (above) for Fleming’s Trucking and Logging. As one of the largest contractors in Ontario for J.M. Longyear, the majority of Fleming’s Trucking and Logging wood goes to Michigan sawmills.

Fleming hired his father-in-law as health and safety coordinator. “I chalk it up as an expense, but when people show up and they want to investigate, want to visit, well my door is open. I don’t have to worry about anything.

“If they have any questions, we answer them, and it’s a good visit vs. everybody being on edge because this may be not right or that may be not right. So that’s the way I see it. It’s an investment that’s well worth it because we don’t get shut down, everything’s good and safe.” And importantly, his employees are safe.

A variety of sophisticated harvesting equipment means Fleming’s Trucking and Logging can cut and process wood on site. Logs are stacked at the side of the road for pick-up by trucks. “It’s nice and neat,” says Fleming. “It’s good for the bush.” With the skidders they used to work with, there was the potential for damage to second growth. “Now, with cut-to-length, everything gets cut short: eight foot, ten foot, twelve foot. We load them on to the forwarder and bring them out to the road, so there’s less damage to the remaining trees.”

Fleming is proud of his crew: two men on harvesters, one man on a forwarder, another building roads, while he hauls wood in his truck.

“I strive to have newer equipment,” he says. “It just makes everything better. The operators want to go to work when they have new equipment to work with. So we really strive to keep good equipment.”

The equipment line-up includes a John Deere 853M feller buncher, a John Deere 250G LC excavator, and a TimberPro TF 840C forwarder.

“This year, we had the new buncher on hand, the John Deere 853M, and in October, we took delivery of a new 24-ton forwarder, a Timber Pro TF840C,” says Fleming. “We also have two cut-to-length harvesters, a Timber Pro TL725B and a TN725B. Both have Rolly II harvester heads on them from Risley.

“Last year, I bought a shovel, so now we have a road crew going steady. We bought a John Deere 250G LC road shovel, and we’ve got a D6R for bulldozing.

“It’s going well,” he says. “We’re working in little areas, picking up little parcels here and there, putting in roads and hauling gravel. We’ve changed our operation a little bit, but the bush operation is still working to its full capacity.” And the operation has its own truck and float, so when they need it to haul wood, it hauls wood, and it’s also available to move equipment.

Ontario logger John FlemingJohn Fleming says he strives to have newer equipment for his operators. This past fall, they took delivery of a new 24-ton forwarder, a Timber Pro TF840C, and they also have two cut-to-length harvesters, a Timber Pro TL725B and a TN725B. Both are equipped with Rolly II harvester heads, from Risley.

“We’re hot loading three loads a day,” he explains, “and the rest of the loads we’re having self-loading trucks pick up. A little under half the wood doesn’t touch the ground, it goes off the forwarder on to the trailer.”

Two of Fleming’s employees recently attended supervisor training. “Our guys have really taken hold of the training. We sent two guys to the supervisor training in the spring. That worked well. They’re proud of what we’re doing.”

The training encourages staff to continually scan for any issues. “It’s not that you get a certificate at the end. It’s the end result: it’s a better workplace to be in, for one thing, because everybody’s thinking about safety. We’re looking for things that are unsafe, and changing it—it’s a constant thing.”

As their operations change and grow, Fleming says, “little things come up” and his staff’s mindset is to fix it before an outside auditor can point it out.

“The guys are looking at things the way an outsider might, like when our health and safety association rep or the Ministry of Labour comes to do an audit or visit. They’re trying to get ahead of them—so we’re on top of that before they can point it out. That’s the kind of thing the guys are focused on—and around the machines, they’re like, ‘We should fix this before we have issues’ ‘Yeah, let’s get it done’ So, it’s great.”

Last year, when Fleming took the time to travel to North Bay to accept the WSN awards, he missed the annual area contractors meeting in Sault Ste. Marie. “There were 30 to 40 guys there—loggers, truckers, and operators— everybody was there. As soon as we got back from North Bay, I dropped off my family and went directly up there. I was just getting in at the end of the meeting, but I flipped our awards out on the tailgate and said, ‘Here, look what we got.’

“So everybody had a look at them. The other contractors didn’t even know that you could get awards. I said, ‘Yeah, you do the right things and get everything in place, and they come and check you out—you can get them, too.’ Anyway, it’s kind of a show-off thing,” he laughs, “but my guys were all there, my crew. So that was the first time they got to take a look at them, and actually hold on to something that was awarded to them—so, here, look at it, show it off. It worked out well.”

With the publicity from the awards, the Flemings received an unexpected call from people who had recently moved to the area from Windsor and had read an online article about Fleming’s business.

“I had a call to meet with some landowners who wanted 100 acres looked at. Right out of the blue—it blew me out of the water. They said, ‘Oh yeah, we know a little bit about you.’ I said, ‘Well, how do you know me?’ They said, ‘Well, we were on the Internet and we saw some pictures of you receiving the awards.’ That kind of surprised me. So it’s great that people can get on the Internet and type in our business and that’s what comes up, you know: good news things.”

Fleming encourages other businesses to participate in their regional health and safety awards. “I think as an employer it’s a good idea to participate. Then there is something to show for it. In our eyes, it’s a big thing.

Alberta’s Spray Lake SawmillsThe Workplace Safety North President’s Award that Fleming’s Trucking and Logging owner John Fleming and his crew received recognizes the top health and safety performers in Ontario’s mining, forestry, paper, printing, and converting sectors, based on safety performance.

“When you’ve cut wood all your life, it’s nice to be rewarded, to have something to show for it. You try to build and build your business, and at the end of the day, you sit at home and there’s something there that says, ‘Yeah, you did a good job,’ and it makes you feel good.”

As one of the largest contractors in Ontario for J.M. Longyear, the majority of Fleming’s Trucking and Logging wood goes to Michigan sawmills. They also feed some softwood to local mills, and ship some wood to Quebec, including cedar shingles. The majority of their hardwood goes to a mill in the U.S., which uses it for products such as butcher blocks, gym flooring, pallet stock, cupboards, and cabinets.

Winning an award makes life easier, according to Fleming, because it helps to build in business owners the confidence that they’re doing all the right things to make their workplace safer.

“People should be trying to do better and trying to get in on it because it makes your life easier, too. If you have something to show for it, you can tell people like Mike Lemay, the Workplace Safety North Health and Safety Specialist, or the Ministry of Labour, ‘Yeah, look what we did. We succeeded at this.’ It shows them, and they have confidence in us, that we’re doing the right thing. So it definitely 
could help others.”

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
December/January 2017

On the Cover:
A Tigercat 870C buncher at work for D. Lind Contracting in B.C. In this issue, Logging and Sawmilling Journal looks at the situation the forest industry is facing with an increasingly older workforce, and where future equipment operators are going come from, beginning on page 4. (Cover photo courtesy of The Inland Group).

Where are the industry’s future employees going to come from?
There is growing concern in the forest industry about where future loggers and equipment operators are going to come from—and a B.C. logging company is taking action in its own backyard, working closely with a local high school to encourage students to look at the forest industry for their careers.

A new look for B.C.’s coastal forest industry
Forest management in B.C.’s Sea to Sky Corridor has taken on a new look, with majority-owned First Nations companies, such as Sqomish Forestry LP, now being large forestry players in the region.

Forest safety—by satellite
Satellite technology is transforming lone worker safety in the forest industry by ensuring no worker is ever without access to a vital line of communications in the remote locations so common to the industry.

Resolute ramps up Atikokan sawmill
Resolute Forest Products is ramping up its brand new sawmill near Atikokan, Ontario, part of the company’s overall investment of $150 million in the region, creating more than 200 jobs.

A family logging affair
Chris Weare of Nova Scotia’s R&C Weare Logging has readily stepped up to the plate—with the support of family—in running their logging business, a heckuva of a busy business affair with an equipment line-up that includes 13 harvesting machines, 10 tractor trailers hauling wood, and roadbuilding gear.

Bouncing back
Alberta’s Spray Lake Sawmills has bounced back from the economic downturn, and is even stronger now thanks to consistent mill improvements—and it is looking to grow its treated wood program.

Getting ready for legal pot
The imminent legalization of marijuana—which could happen as early as this year—provides a good reason for forest companies of all sizes to prepare themselves with at least a well-defined and communicated substance abuse policy.

Building business-and a safe workplace
Ontario logger John Fleming has won two health and safety awards, and has found that in addition to helping build a safe workplace, the awards have helped build his business.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and FPInnovations.

The Last Word
Jim Stirling on how B.C. is dealing with the spruce bark beetle on steroids, and possible containment strategies.

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