By Jim Stirling
Everyone working in and around a sawmill buys into the safety on the job theory. They all want to arrive home in one piece at the end of the working day. But it’s consistently applying safety procedures and requirements while on the job that can be the tricky part.
It takes a range of factors working in unison to drive the point home. Dave Tolton uses communication and commitment as a couple of the tools among his applied safety strategies—along with some good old common sense. Tolton is safety co-ordinator for West Fraser Timber’s Pacific Inland Resources division (PIR) in Smithers, British Columbia.
Tolton has helped devise ways that suit the PIR workplace and are designed to keep the entire mill operation—inside and out—functioning safely, as well as efficiently. The process is helped with a from the top down commitment to safety.
“The president of the company has said we will have the safest mills in the industry,” notes Tolton. “West Fraser has been very generous with time for training sessions and constantly finding ways to improve our performance.”
Safety issues are not just a priority with staff and hourly workers at the operation. They apply to everyone who comes on site in the course of their job. Contractors and truckers, for example, receive mandatory site orientation along with a core package of safety expectations, explains Tolton.
“Everyone needs to be informed to comply with West Fraser’s standards,” he says. For most, that’s not an issue. But there’s always some who resent having to do things differently from their norms.
Some who come on the mill site have English very much as a second language, which might require extra time to ensure the safety issues and responsibilities are well understood, he adds.
The removal and containment of combustible sawdust accumulations throughout the sawmill and planer operations remains a priority. The issue in one form or other is always on the agenda of regular safety meetings and inspections, and on the minds of mill workers.
Tolton has come up with ways to help new and young workers develop good safety habits from day one. They include the compilation of a comprehensive safety binder to help them stay safe on the job. New workers start with a yellow covered binder. “It contains the minimum safety standards they must know and put into practice,” he summarizes.
Other companies may have similar material for their workers in computerized form. “The folder is very visual,” explains Tolton. “It helps keep people thinking. It’s just our way of doing it.”
The folder is there and can be consulted any time the employee needs it, or has a couple of spare minutes, he adds. The yellow binders contain a two-year package of safety information.
PIR has developed handy, pocket-size cards for safely performing specific jobs around the mill. For example, there’s a pre-job hazard assessment card surrounding the use of compressed air in the planer mill. One of the first issues to be decided after identifying the specific area requiring attention is whether the use of compressed air is actually needed for the task, or whether an alternative will suffice.
If compressed air is to be employed, the check list details analysis of the situation and all that needs to be assembled, checked and prepared so the task can be safely performed. On job completion, the card reminds the new worker to ensure all lock outs are removed and accounted for; essential power is restored; air hoses properly wound and stored, and all gates, chains and access points are closed and secure.
The hope is the material in the yellow folder—and contained on the pre-job hazard analysis cards—will through familiarity and practice become part of the workers’ daily practices and procedures within the planned two-year period of the safety package.
Generally speaking, Tolton reckons young and new workers adapt readily to the company’s safety requirements. “Kids today know all about computers but they do not know much about basic machine operations,” Tolton has learned. “What you tell them is very important so they don’t start off with bad habits.”
Job observations, audits and reporting of ‘near misses’ are also an integral part of PIR’s safety strategies. “We encourage the reporting of all near misses and it is getting better,” he notes. Near misses can help indicate areas or procedures in the mill that might need further safety attention. “But we need to hear about them.” Again, the newer or younger workers will report a visit to first aid for example. Some older workers won’t bother, dismissing it as minor, and just part of the job. And that’s precisely what Tolton is trying to counter.
Most sawmills have a solid core of knowledgeable people working in them and PIR is no exception. Young and inexperienced workers can benefit significantly from their mentoring. “You try to put the new workers with those who can communicate beyond the need to get the job done,” he explains. “The foremen know who’s good with training skills.”
Throughout the indoctrination process, they try to make the workers feel comfortable, continues Tolton. “We try to provide an overview of the mill and how they fit within that process, as well as seeing the hazards in different parts of the mill.”
It’s all part of arriving home in one piece at the end of the day and all the days to come.
The installation of new machinery into a sawmill’s flow requires additional vigilance from a worker safety perspective. Apart from being around a new piece of equipment, workers need to be aware that the new machines can have impacts on material handling—and flow—up and downstream from the installation itself.
The manufacturers’ representatives are good at explaining the new equipment and how it works, notes Dave Tolton, safety co-ordinator for West Fraser Timber’s Pacific Inland Resources division in Smithers, B.C.
The mill was planning to install two new USNR high speed lumber handling sort stacker systems in the planer. Their function is to even out the flow between the two present stackers and reduce the pressure on the mill’s back end. The installation is also expected to improve the operation’s overall production and efficiency. They also hope that when the project is completed, the smoother running operation will be safer, added Tolton.
On the Cover:
Everything is in place for the largest live logging equipment show in North America this year—DEMO 2016, to be held at the UBC Research Forest near Vancouver from September 22-24—and the package is impressive. Read all about DEMO beginning on page 38 of this issue.
IS MEXICO RIPE FOR THE PICKING—for Canadian softwood lumber producers?
It was smiles all around at the recent “Three Amigos” Summit in Ottawa, hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with guests President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. But the summit has now got some in the industry wondering how they can expand lumber exports to Mexico.
Logging safety net
A decision by Alberta’s Barmac Contracting to diversify, and be involved in logging, is now paying off and proving to be a solid safety net, with the dramatic drop in activity in the oilpatch.
Ramping it up
Fraser Valley contractor D. Lind Logging has ramped up its equipment line-up considerably in recent years and the family operation is now a full-on stump-to-dump contractor, and able to take on more volume.
Getting back into logging
Having built a successful gravel business, B.C.’s Lincoln Douglas decided to re-enter logging six years ago, doing work in southwestern B.C., and is now looking to get into the value-added sector with a small sawmilling operation.
LSJ Show Guide --DEMO 2016
Full details on the largest logging equipment show this year: DEMO 2016, being held in Maple Ridge, B.C., including a list of exhibitors, schedule of events, site map.
Technology in the woods
With everything from IPads to drones and custom Apps, technology is hitting the woods, and it’s making pretty much everything more efficient—and safer, too.
SOLID SAFETY commitment
West Fraser Timber has a from the top down commitment to safety, which is reflected in the solid safety strategies employed at one of its operations in the B.C. Interior, its Pacific Inland Resources division.
Steep slope logging, European-style
Ponsse dealer ALPA Equipment recently demo’ed some European steep slope logging equipment to two of New Brunswick’s largest forestry operators, to help meet the growing interest in what’s available in steep slope logging technology.
Scaling back log scaling costs
Interfor’s Acorn sawmill in Surrey, B.C. now has the first government certified legal-for-trade log scanner in North America, and it’s reducing scaling costs while providing more accurate log measurements.
Future forests resilient to climate change?
A forestry trial in the B.C. Interior could very well provide some clues into what future forests could look like, in the wake of the mountain pine beetle—and those forests could have increased resilience to climate change.
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 - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations.