Falling dead trees is top safety risk to forest workers
|Sabrina Missere, Health and Safety Specialist at Workplace Safety North, facilitated a risk assessment workshop with Ontario silviculture sector subject matter experts to determine top risks for workers.|
In March, experts in Ontario’s silviculture industry joined forces to improve workplace safety through a comprehensive risk assessment workshop. Silviculture involves forest development and care, including activities like tree planting and forest management.
Understanding the workshop process
“The workshop involved workers, supervisors, and employers, ensuring many perspectives were considered to identify and rank all the risks,” says Sabrina Missere, Health and Safety Specialist at Workplace Safety North and workshop facilitator.
“The process was open, transparent, and collaborative,” notes Missere. “This type of research avoids the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and really recognizes the unique nature of different risk factors in the silviculture sector.
“Various risk categories were discussed, ranging from environmental and driving hazards to emergency preparedness, ergonomics, and psychosocial hazards. The comprehensive list covered potential risks like eye injuries, exposure to hazardous substances, and working around equipment.”
Worker, supervisor, and employer perspectives
The risk assessment used a heat map to categorize risks based on likelihood and consequence. The top 10 health and safety risks were determined through an anonymous voting process during the workshop. Comparisons were made between the top 10 risks as identified by workers and those by supervisors, and employers. The results showed significant agreement, and emphasizes the importance of including diverse viewpoints. The collaborative approach also aims to find acceptable solutions supported by all members.
Top 10 Health and Safety Risks in Silviculture Sector
Falling dead trees is top health and safety risk
- Dead snag trees or branches, chicots, hang ups, spring poles in cutover falling on workers
- Highway traffic incidents (especially those involving transport trucks)
- Unsafe driving on forestry roads
- Motor vehicle incidents
- Strong winds: Standing trees falling on workers in the block
- Heat stress leading to dehydration
- ATV, wheel, and track machine incidents (rollover, loss of control, speed, collision, leaving roadway)
- Wildlife encounters or attacks
- Lack of emergency planning
- Musculoskeletal injuries and repetitive strain injuries
Significance of the workshop
Initiated in 2013 by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (Ministry), the research aims to create an integrated risk assessment methodology. The goal is to identify and reduce risks to worker health and safety, provide valuable information to employers, workers, and their representatives at the sector level. The workshop aligns with and is supported by the WSN Forestry, Paper Printing and Converting Advisory Committee, and harnesses collective wisdom to focus on the highest risks to health and safety.
Addressing specific risks
The identified risks included not only physical dangers like falling trees and motor vehicle incidents, but also environmental factors such as strong winds. The importance of emergency planning and addressing issues like repetitive strain injuries was highlighted. The workshop results emphasized the need for a comprehensive and proactive approach to ensure a safe working environment.
“This Provincial Silviculture Sector Risk Assessment Workshop successfully brought together industry experts to identify and prioritize health and safety risks,” says Missere. “By taking a collaborative approach and considering various perspectives, the workshop created solutions that all stakeholders could support.”
The results provide valuable insights into the specific risks faced by the silviculture sector, paving the way for sharing these results with industry to support targeted and effective safety measures. Next steps include a root cause analysis of the top risk, and the development of controls to protect workers.
For more information, contact Sabrina Missere, WSN Health and Safety Specialist.
Forest products industry webpage has additional information on latest sector health and safety research