By Travis Naillon
Logger safety is critical. One accident can change life forever. Ask C & C Logging — they know.
The Family Business
C & C Logging, located in Kelso, Washington, is a second-generation family-owned company. Frank Chandler Sr. started the business 52 years ago with his wife and one employee.
With the help of his son, Frank Jr., and daughter Lee Anne, the company has grown to become one of the largest logging companies in the Pacific Northwest with over 100 employees. Their vision of keeping up with technology, safety, production, and quality has allowed the company to grow and be successful.
A Life-changing Experience
Frank Jr.’s outlook on safety changed after he was involved in a logging injury that nearly took his life. This life-altering experience resulted in safety becoming a priority of the family business.
On that day, nearly 26 years ago, Frank Jr. was training his brother-in-law how to operate a harvester. While they were working, the machine broke down, and a mechanic would not be available to fix it for a week. Both men were mechanically inclined and decided to fix the harvester on their own.
They grabbed some wrenches and test gauges and got to work. They didn’t lockout or tagout the machine. Instead, Frank’s brother-in-law got into the cab of the machine so they could do some hydraulic troubleshooting. Frank signaled for him to close the head. Nothing happened.
When the head didn’t move, Frank noticed that the four magnet coils had been replaced incorrectly. Frank stepped between the arms of the head and placed them in the correct locations. As he did this, the head closed and the saw bar came out, cutting his leg. The saw cut down to the bone, severing an artery and vein.
Fortunately, Frank’s brother-in-law was a trained EMT and quickly made a tourniquet out of his shirt sleeve. And, luckily, Frank had a cell phone in his lunch box and was able to call for an ambulance. They contacted another crew working nearby who were able to meet the ambulance and guide them to Frank.
By the time medical assistance arrived, Frank’s blood pressure was so low they couldn’t place an I.V. line. He was taken to Seaside, Oregon, then flown to a Portland hospital where doctors told him that he was either going to lose his leg or the use of it. Frank Jr. was only 22 years old, and his father told the doctor not to amputate if there was any chance at all of saving his leg.
All Frank could think of while all of this was happening was how badly he had disappointed his wife and father.
A New Outlook on Safety
Doctors were able to save his leg, but even after years of physical therapy, he still walks with a limp. “All because I took a shortcut, I nearly died. Back then no one in our industry had even heard of lockout/tagout. The mill people knew about it, but not loggers,” says Frank.
Seeing the impact his injury had on his family changed his views on safety. He wanted to show that logging didn’t have to be a dangerous industry, and that it was a good career path. He thought about his employees. His accident had happened when he was in a hurry, and he put his life on the line to get a job done quickly. He wanted to make sure his crew knew that they would never be expected to put their health and safety on the line for any job. To do this, he developed a top-down safety approach and led by example.
“You can’t just talk about safety because it’s the cool thing to do, and landowners want to hear it. You have to practice it, buy in, and transition the culture,” says Frank. He believes that logging company owners need to set an example for safe behavior.
When the logging industry hears about a death or injury many still say, “Things happen, it’s just part of logging.” That attitude needs to change if the logging industry wants to be successful.
At C & C, the focus is on not taking shortcuts, getting people off the ground where they can, and being safe, consistent, and high quality. According to Frank, the safest way is not always the cheapest or most productive way to log, but it is best for people and the industry.
Frank wants C & C employees to be able to retire healthy and proud of their work. He acts as a role model, training employees, and he holds everyone, including himself, accountable for safety on the job.
“It’s not hard to buckle up or follow lockout programs, but owners have to do it and ensure employees do as well.” Frank readily admits that neither he nor his crew are perfect, and they need to continually reinforce the safety objectives.
C & C Logging was an early adopter of mechanization, with the approach that “getting boots off the ground” would make things safer.
C & C Logging has also been at the forefront of steep slope machine (SSM), or tethered, logging and had one of the first tethered machines in Washington State. Since then, they have been building and selling steep slope system equipment and have also started manufacturing a cable yarding system with a grapple carriage.
These innovations reduce risks to workers. Just one of C & C’s steep slope machines replaces up to four of the industry’s most dangerous jobs.
New technology is also exciting for young owners and workers. “Many think the new generation are lazy and stupid. Actually, they are smart and don’t want to perform physical, dangerous jobs for low pay.”
Frank believes that embracing the changing workforce by improving safety, mechanizing, and increasing pay will encourage the next generation to become loggers.
Their commitment to innovation shows when you visit the company. When entering the dispatch room, the first thing you see is a large T.V. screen, with the location of each active logging job and all of their company logging trucks. All the log trucks are equipped with GPS for easy location.
C & C Logging has also been at the forefront of steep slope machines, or tethered logging, and had one of the first tethered machines in Washington State. They keep a large parts room with items for the majority of their equipment available. All parts are scanned in and out to track usage and replenish inventory. Once inventory reaches a certain level, parts are automatically reordered.
Another business decision the company made early on that increased worker safety was hiring a designated human resource (HR) manager. At first, they weren’t sure whether they could afford it or if there would really be any value.
After getting Merrill onboard, they realized they had made a good decision. Not only did hiring and claim management become more streamlined, safety training also improved. One important task given to Merrill was injury prevention communication. He does safety training for new employees and conducts company-wide safety meetings when new hazards are recognized.
Working to Make the Industry Safer
In 2013, the Washington Logger Safety Initiative (LSI) brought together government, landowners, and company owners to promote a “safety first” culture in the logging industry. Frank was excited that the industry would finally be changing for the better. C & C quickly embraced the program.
He gave up two working days a month to meet with the group creating the program. He hopes that social pressure from the program will lead landowners and contractors to embrace the LSI and bring about a real change in safety culture. He was encouraged to hear that one landowner has a new motto “A safe contractor is a good quality contractor.”
Loggers are independent by nature and not too fond of regulations. However, if they are held accountable by landowners and regulatory agencies, they will adjust to stay in business. This is what Frank hopes will eventually happen through the LSI.
An Opportunity for the Industry
Frank hopes that investing in mechanization will bring better margins, higher wages, new career opportunities, and allow for safer operations.
A person’s body won’t hold up to a long career of hand falling. By mechanizing tree falling, a person can retire healthy. “Right now with technology, we can take people off the ground and put them in low-exposure machines,” Frank says.
At C & C Logging, they believe that by embracing technology and mechanization, and focusing on worker safety, logging can be a safe and prosperous career for the next generation.
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One accident can change a life forever. Just ask C&C Logging.
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