PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – As the number of fatalities among log haulers has decreased, overall safety still remains a chief concern throughout the industry.
In the Prince George region itself, the number of injury claims among log haulers has remained relatively stationary during the past five years, while the number of fatalities has seen a dip during the past couple of years.
“That could just be good luck, but we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on trucking,” said Bruce Clarke, regional director for Prince George with WorkSafeBC. “It’s really too short of a time to know for sure. Hopefully this will be an ongoing trend, but we really need to look at five or six years of data.”
One concern regarding fatalities has been the shift of accidents from the service roads to the main highways.
“One big thing we’ve noticed is a lot of fatalities have moved off bush roads and onto the main roads,” explained Clarke. “So it’s not just an issue with the bush roads anymore.”
Whether from trucks veering off the road, colliding with other vehicles or wildlife, the majority of serious claims and fatalities seen by WorkSafeBC stem from motor vehicle accidents.
“It can be a combination of things. Speed can be a factor, substance abuse – whether prescription or non-prescription drugs – and fatigue is a big factor,” Clarke told Truck West.
He noted it’s very important for drivers to only work the hours allowed by law, stay away from illegal substances and be very cautious with legal substances.
Also to combat the speed factor, haulers should drive to the road conditions – even if it means travelling below the posted speed limit.
Another factor which can contribute to motor vehicle accidents is road maintenance and forestry planning.
Since the pine beetle infestation in B.C.’s forests, there has been an increase of traffic on the service roads.
“Some of these secondary roads weren’t designed for heavy traffic,” noted Clarke. “Where they have concerns over road design or maintenance, they should bring it to the attention of who they’re working for; and if they’re not getting anywhere they can bring it to our attention.”
A larger safety concern for WorkSafeBC is the number of smaller injury claims from log haulers, which primarily result from falls.
“A lot of it results from slipping on ice, slipping on stairs when coming down from the truck, or putting up stakes,” explained Clarke. “We haven’t had a lot of serious injuries from them, but it’s the majority of the claims.”
Many of the injuries result in twisted ankles, contusions or sprains, which are not life-threatening, but a bad sprain could put a driver on the shelf for a month.
To avoid slipping, Clarke said it’s imperative to ensure the truck’s stairs are clear of debris and to use the handrails with every entry and exit of the truck. Footwear with good traction is also important in staying upright.
“A lot of guys seem to like wearing cowboy boots, but they should be wearing a good work boot, with tread for winter conditions,” Clarke noted.
When it comes to putting up stakes, Clarke explained drivers should avoid climbing up on top of the bunk of the truck.
“They should be looking at systems that are spring-loaded and they can put up their stakes from the ground, so they aren’t having to get up on the bunks,” he added.
The big challenge in creating a safer industry is not coming up with points of advice, but rather changing people’s attitude towards safety.
“Everybody has to play a part…the truckers, other road users, forest licensees and the road planners,” commented Clarke. “We just have to create a culture of safety.”