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Lowering Costs While Keeping Loggers Safe
Logger Safety Initiative
By Devin Proctor, Logging Safety Initiative Manager at Washington State Department of Labor and Industry
A choker setter working near a steep cliff in Pacific County in late January slips and falls 50 feet. The fall breaks his back.
This is the type of injury that the Washington State Logger Safety Initiative (LSI) is working to prevent. The LSI program began in 2012 when industry representatives approached the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) to discuss the high workers’ compensation rates that were approaching $20 an hour, on average.
Finding an Answer
The department created a taskforce comprised of logging companies, landowners, and government to develop a program that could lower the injury and fatality rate in logging while lowering their workers’ compensation rates.
LSI was born out of those discussions. It is a unique program that offers companies a 20 percent discount from their workers’ compensation rates if they meet certain criteria. When a company enrolls in the completely voluntary LSI program, they agree to meet all of its requirements.
Components of the Program
There are five main components of the program that companies will complete as they move forward, including:
A Premium Technical Audit. A review of the logging company’s reporting of risk class 5001 hours for the past six months. Hours in 5001 include those workers on the ground using chain saws to fall trees.
A Comprehensive Safety Consultation. L&I’s safety consultants work with every LSI participant to ensure they are complying with LSI’s safety requirements. The safety requirements are spelled out in LSI’s Accident Prevention Programs and align with the state’s current safety requirements. A few areas go above and beyond current state regulations.
Reporting. Logging companies must also begin reporting their work sites where manual logging (5001 work) will be happening. In addition, logging companies must report their 5001 hours each month.
Including monthly reporting of 5001 hours for companies in LSI was an idea proposed by the logging industry. The hope is that monthly reporting would be a barrier to underreporting hours on the quarterly report. The logging companies still submit their quarterly reports required by law, but a monthly report prior to the quarterly should help prevent underreporting. Total hours reported is one of many factors that determine the rate L&I sets for an industry.
Third Party Audit. The final piece of the LSI program includes a third-party audit. The third-party auditor is someone completely independent from L&I. The auditor confirms that an LSI participant is complying with all of the LSI safety requirements.
Once the third-party auditor confirms the company is meeting LSI requirements, they would be eligible for the full 20 percent discount. That could mean up to $4 an hour discount per 5001 hour reported. This could be a fairly significant discount as some companies are reporting between 1,000 and 2,000 hours per month in 5001.
So where are we today? LSI rolled out in January 2014. A total of 96 companies have signed up as of May 15. We have completed 85 Premium Technical Audit visits and 38 Comprehensive Safety Consultations. The third-party auditor should be out in the field by mid-June confirming that LSI participants are meeting LSI requirements.
Unfortunately, there have been three hospitalizations and one fatality involving LSI participants since the program began. This is just a reminder of the important role the LSI program will play as it works to foster a safety culture in the logging industry.
For more information about the LSI program including a list of participating companies, please visit www.loggersafety.org.
Common Identified Problems
What are some of the common problems that have been identified during recent L&I consultation visits?
Serious Problems Found During the Consultation Visits:
Other Problems Found During the Consultation Visits:
Fatal Logging Accidents
Logging accidents reported in the past calendar year in Washington State (1 LSI, 3 other):
Fatal, March 2014
A timber cutter was fatally injured when he was struck by a falling limb. As the tree he was cutting began to fall, the tree brushed up against another tree, causing a branch to be dislodged, and the momentum projected the limb back toward where the timber faller was standing.
Fatal, February 2014
One of the rigging crew members on a high lead tower side was killed when he was struck by a choked log. Shortly after the go-ahead signal was given to send the turn of logs to the landing, one of the logs swung around, striking the victim. The results of the inspection revealed the rigging crew was standing too close to the rigging.
Fatal, January 2014
A timber cutter was fatally injured when he was struck by a cut-up tree. A cutter was bucking a log out in front of some trees he had previously cut up. With his back to the cut-up trees, one of the trees fell in his direction, striking the victim. It appeared the cutter was attempting to domino fall a group of standing trees.
Fatal, May 2013
A timber cutter was fatally injured when he was struck by a falling tree. Two timber cutters were working about 50 feet apart, when a tree that one cutter was working on broke off the stump and fell off to the side, striking the coworker. The timber cutters did not maintain a safe working distance of at least two tree lengths apart.
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