By Jim Mandala
On September 11, 2016 in an area west of Campbell River, B.C., a faller died as a result of his injuries when the snag he was falling broke up and struck him. In a similar incident on July 4, near Bella Bella, B.C., another faller was fatally injured when a danger tree fell in an unintended direction and hit him.
According to the BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) there were nine fatalities in the province’s logging sector in 2016, as of November 2016. This is after a spike in logger deaths in 2015 led WorkSafeBC to call a special meeting with industry representatives to discuss ways to improve safety in the forest.
While the details of the most recent tragic fatalities have not yet been disclosed, among the key challenges facing loggers and lone workers is the remote locations where they work. These locations are typically well outside the scope of cellphone coverage, which severely limits communication capabilities and in the event of an accident, time to rescue. As a result, resource companies are increasingly looking to the next generation of satellite technology to bring dependable, fast, mobile coverage even in the most remote locations.
Many companies operating in resource-based sectors such as oil and gas have already started the shift away from legacy voice-based safety programs to affordable, satellite-enabled lone worker check-in procedures—a trend that is poised to continue and one that readily applies to the forest industry.
Consider a few key stats: According to the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, Canada has one of the world’s largest areas of responsibility for search and rescue, covering 18 million square kilometres of land and water. Forestry, oil and gas, mining and maritime companies largely operate within the almost eight million square kilometres outside the reach of traditional cellular and GSM networks.
While mandates vary across the country, most provinces have regulations in force to protect lone workers in the field, requiring organizations to maintain always-on and reliable contact with workers. For example, in an effort to further prioritize safety, the BC Forest Safety Council created the SAFE companies certification program that has made certification, which includes worker check-in requirements, a prerequisite to bid on or to carry out certain work.
Until recently, companies in the natural resources sector have had to rely on two-way radios to stay connected to their workers in the field and meet Lone Worker regulations. But there was no guarantee someone was available to pick up on the other end in the event of an emergency. As well, without GPS capabilities, it was almost impossible for employers and search and rescue responders to quickly determine the location and needs of stranded or injured workers and respond in a timely manner.
That’s where satellite phones, messengers and data hot spots are making the difference by allowing workers to be where they need to be and stay connected and safe. Devices such as the SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger are one such affordable, practical and effective solution for lone worker check-in. This GPS-enabled communications device enables more accurate and consistent check-in procedures, creates a digital trail of where the worker is at all times and features an SOS button, which will send GPS coordinates of the worker’s location. The device can also be used in an emergency situation to map the best routes to get into a cut area or to track cuttings, for example, for future reference, improving both safety and efficiency.
In the logging industry, maintaining and repairing equipment often requires travelling to remote regions of the province. Black Diamond Mechanical & Welding Ltd. does much of its equipment servicing in its Parksville, B.C. shop facility. In many cases, however, technicians have to travel hundreds of miles to service machines in the field. One logging site, Taleomy, is so remote, there is no cell service and no access road. Crew are transported by a Turbine Otter float plane and the equipment and heavy supplies arrive via tug and barge.
To maintain voice communications between master mechanics and remote technicians working in field operations, Black Diamond has been a long-time user of Globalstar GSP-1700 satellite phones. Recently, it became the very first business in Canada to deploy Globalstar’s new Sat-Fi satellite hotspot technology so that workers can use their devices (Wi-Fi enabled smartphones, tablets and laptops) to send and receive satellite communications.
“With Sat-Fi, our remote crews can use their own smartphones, tablets and computers to communicate using reliable satellite technology, without the need to access to cellular or GSM networks,” says Black Diamond owner David Pope. “This ensures we have open and operational communications networks with our field crews at all times.” For more information visit Globalstar.com/BlackDiamond.
Satellite is delivering on the Internet of Things promise that anything that can be connected and will be connected by extending its reach to otherwise unreachable places. This keeps lone workers safe in the process and helps ensure compliance with lone worker regulations and check-in policies. For example, Calgary-based Aware360 is using SPOT satellite technology to develop exception-based monitoring software solutions for lone worker applications in the oil and gas and other resource-based industries.
“Pre-satellite, the only time we’d know you were safe would be when you were on the phone with a monitoring center agent,” says Rod Heitrich, vice-president of business development, Aware360. “When SPOT came out, we were able to have workers check in or immediately send an SOS with location and be tracked for the first time in the 80 per cent of the country not covered by cellular service. The monitor centre can see where you are the whole time, without taking calls, knowing that each worker is OK unless they signal otherwise.”
The Aware360 WorkAlone solution, along with SPOT Satellite technology, is designed for people working in high risk activities such as forestry where they are almost always remote and often alone. Heitrich explains that “SPOT satellite technology made the broad application of digital exception-based software possible and enabled us to significantly improve worker safety outcomes.”
With this type of exception-based digital monitoring, employers were for the first time able to provide their remote lone workers with “automated check-ins and the ability to signal for assistance in case of an emergency in an affordable and efficient way”.
Satellite technology is transforming lone worker safety in the forestry and natural resource sectors by ensuring no worker is ever without access to a vital line of communications – whether on or off the cellular grid. In the process it has helped companies streamline their operations and improve worker productivity by providing reliable access to voice and data networks, using a variety of affordable, flexible satellite solutions. Companies now have a wide range of choices when it comes to proactively meeting provincial mandates for lone worker safety and check-in. The technology is here. It’s up to forestry companies to use it.
Jim Mandala is vice-president and general manager of Globalstar Canada Satellite Co., a leading provider of satellite voice and data services. Jim can be reached by email at JMandala@globalstar.ca.
Roughly two billion people in the world either live, work or play beyond the range of terrestrial networks. Additionally there are those people who temporarily find themselves without cellular coverage for whatever reason, including, but not limited to:
SPOT is proven technology providing a vital line of communications beyond cellular to hundreds of thousands of users around the world. Since its launch, SPOT devices have initiated more than 3,400 rescues in Canada, 4,500 worldwide.
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.
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.
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.