January February, 2004





Oregon Adopts Tougher Forest Equipment Safety Standards With New OSHA Regulations

By Tony Kryzanowski

Good communication between Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division and the state’s forestry contractors is paying off, even as loggers face considerably increased expenses to raise industry standards on equipment guarding to expressed is the fact that the employer will now have to buy gloves for employees,” says Lulay.

Improved standards regarding protective structures on forestry equipment is only one aspect of a major overhaul of OSHA regulations pertaining to forest-related industries. According to Lulay, both industry and better protect operators. Equipment manufactured after July 1, 2004 will need to be fully enclosed to protect the equipment operator, according to updated OSHA regulations. Division representative Mike Lulay says there is no doubt that extra guarding on machines is going to cost contractors a lot more money. “We started talking about this issue early on, and the reality is that while contractors don’t like spending an extra $20,000 on a machine, on the other hand, we’ve had a couple of fatalities,” he says.

It was quite obvious to forestry contractors and state OSHA officials that it was time to introduce higher equipment safety standards in Oregon, after reviewing OSHA regulations from other jurisdictions like Washington and British Columbia, where forestry equipment and operations are very similar. Over the past three years, Oregon contractors have been working with major manufacturers so that safety features on forestry equipment offered for sale in the state in future are both technically feasible and will meet new OSHA standards.

The state cannot dictate design standards to equipment manufacturers, because legally this is viewed as interfering with interstate commerce. So Oregon loggers themselves brought their case and ideas directly to manufacturers. Ongoing initiatives like this have resulted in few, if any, surprises, leading up to the introduction of new OSHA standards, which came into force December 1, 2003. A number of training sessions were held this fall to familiarize Oregon’s forest industry with new OSHA regulations. “Quite frankly, the only concern that was really

www.osha.gov state regulators just felt it was time. There were five motivating factors driving the need for the health and safety update. These were: to make the rules more clear and concise for users, to ensure that the rules were updated to include current technology, to eliminate outdated and obsolete rules, to bring forestry-related rules in line with other industries, and to address areas not currently addressed. A good example regarding the need for new OSHA regulations on this final point is the recent introduction of synthetic rope as a replacement for wire rope. About a dozen Oregon contractors have made the switch to synthetic rope because research has shown that it is just as strong, yet weighs about one-tenth as much. It’s a labor saver.

Whereas in the past it took two or three workers to rig up wire rope, companies are getting away with just one person rigging up with synthetic rope. However, OSHA regulations related to the safe use of synthetic rope did not exist before the recent update. As far as enforcement, inspections will follow the same criteria as under the old regulations. The number of worker’s compensation claims being made by forestry workers was definitely not a motivating factor behind regulation changes. The number of claims has actually gone down over the past five years. Lulay emphasizes that the new regulations came largely from industry, and not from state government. A committee consisting of 30 forest industry stakeholders was the driving force behind how current OSHA regulations are written. “We as an agency didn’t write it,” he says. “It’s what industry told us we needed. It is a consensus standard that was actually developed by industry.”


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004