Mech­a­ni­sa­tion puts more strain on log­gers

New Zealand Logger - - Safety Summit -

THE MOVE TO RE­PLACE PEO­PLE ON THE GROUND WITH ma­chines for safety rea­sons is hav­ing some un­in­tended H&S con­se­quences that the in­dus­try needs to ad­dress.

That’s what Paula Nord­strom has dis­cov­ered af­ter re­cently com­plet­ing re­search as part of her Grad­u­ate Diploma in Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety & Health into whether mech­a­ni­sa­tion has ac­tu­ally made New Zealand forests safer.

Ms Nord­strom, who owns the Taupo-based Safe T Works con­sul­tancy, told the For­est In­dus­try Safety & Tech­nol­ogy 2018 con­fer­ence in Ro­torua last month that more fo­cus needs to be placed on the long-term ef­fects of mech­a­ni­sa­tion on work­ers.

She says that while mech­a­ni­sa­tion can as­sist by bring­ing down in­jury and fa­tal­ity rates in­ter­na­tional stud­ies show that it places dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal, men­tal and psy­choso­cial de­mands on op­er­a­tors.

For in­stance, me­chan­i­cal felling ma­chine op­er­a­tors on steep slopes suf­fer more dis­com­fort and pain through con­stant ac­tiv­ity and less mus­cle rest. As many as 30% suf­fer from back pain through op­er­at­ing their ma­chines, whilst many suf­fered neck, shoul­der and wrist pain, and up to a quar­ter re­port feel­ing numb­ness or tin­gling.

Ms Nord­strom says op­er­a­tors feel pres­sured to push them­selves and their ma­chines to work on steeper slopes and ground-based crews are in­creas­ingly work­ing in steeper blocks de­signed for hauler crews.

Putting ma­chines onto ground that is less sta­ble is a chal­lenge and op­er­a­tors say they also need con­sis­tency about the max­i­mum slope level they should be work­ing on – some­thing they ex­pect the reg­u­la­tor to set.

A lack of proper train­ing for ma­chine op­er­a­tors has also been iden­ti­fied as a con­cern, with added pres­sures to get up to speed in high pro­duc­tion crews.

She also says her re­search iden­ti­fied that forestry crews ap­pear to be work­ing longer hours and that travel times need to be taken into ac­count, adding that whilst there are guide­lines for truck drivers, who have to keep log books, there is noth­ing cov­er­ing har­vest­ing and sil­vi­cul­ture work­ers. Some are work­ing 12-14 hour days plus travel.

Ms Nord­strom iden­ti­fies fa­tigue as a com­mon is­sue in forestry, with 78% of work­ers re­port­ing that they ex­pe­ri­ence fa­tigue at some time dur­ing the day.

The in­dus­try needs to do more to im­prove work­ing con­di­tions and the health, as well as safety of front­line log­gers and sil­vi­cul­tur­ists, she says.

Th­ese range from in­clud­ing an­nual health checks and how to man­age and elim­i­nate pain/dis­com­fort. Ms Nord­strom sug­gests ma­chine man­u­fac­tur­ers could de­velop rest break re­minders that can be set for pre­scribed in­ter­vals when ma­chines are in con­stant use.

And more re­search is needed into the use of ma­chines on steep slopes and bet­ter guide­lines need to be de­vel­oped.

NZL

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