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SAFE WORK PRACTICES FOR HELICOPTER

OPERATIONS IN THE FOREST INDUSTRY

HISTORY

  The first copy of this Safety Manual was published in 1995. Two and a half years ago in November, 2002 I had a meeting with Dave Lee (Transport Canada – Civil Aviation). At that time I was the President of the WFA, (Western Fallers Association). The purpose of this meeting was to bring to his attention the deplorable Safety conditions in the Forestry, Helicopter Logging Sector. In January 2002 Bruce Fleenor, a Director of the WFA, and myself had meetings with Ron Corbeil IWA, Roberta Ellis WCB, Doug Enns WCB and Todd Campbell HRSDC (Human Resources and Skills and Development Canada)  – Labour Program. The purpose of these meetings, were to bring the present working conditions to their attention, and see what could be done to put an end to these unsafe work practices.

There was little if any interest shown by Roberta Ellis, (President of the Prevention Department, WCB), and very little interest shown by Doug Enns, (Chairman of the board WCB). Ron Corbeil, (Head of the National Health and Safety IWA) asked to be kept in the loop. Todd Campbell, (HRSDC – Labour Program) was very interested in what we had brought to him and talks were immediately begun. At that time my participation in the WFA had ended so I carried on alone with the talks and meetings. In a couple of months I was asked by Todd Campbell if I would put a quorum together to investigate and solve our concerns.

Attendees (acknowledgements) for the first manual:

1.     NINE HELICOPTER COMPANIES

2.     MacMILLAN BLOEDEL

 

Attendees (acknowledgements) at these meetings:

1.   TRANSPORT CANADA – CIVIL AVIATION: Dave Lee

2.   HRSDC – LABOUR PROGRAM: Todd Campbell

3.   HELIFOR INDUSTRIES Ltd: Gary McDermid

4.   CANADIAN AIR-CRANE Ltd: Dave Heyes

5.   WCB, PREVENTION DIVISION: RON JUDD

6.   FALLERS REPRESENTATIVE: Randall Shoop

7.   IWA, NATIONAL SAFETY REPRESENTATIVE: Ron Corbeil

“FALLER, HELICOPTER” REGULATION EXCERPTS FROM THE FIRST MANUAL:

 In the first manual there was very little said about the way Helicopter Logging was to be conducted in relationship to the fallers.

1.     Flight paths must be located so that Helicopters do not fly over workers

2.     Falling or bucking must not be done on steep ground above any worksite where runaway logs or debris could endanger workers below.

3.     Heli-logging unfinished tree lines should be avoided.

Though these are all very important regulations they were vague and were not well known on the worksite. Safety was rarely the first consideration, and if concerns were brought foreword by the fallers they would be branded as trouble makers and would be swiftly fired from their job. The need for precise, well publicized regulations that would be enforced by the respective agencies would be the base that a sound safety policy could be built on.

“FALLER, HELICOPTER”REGULATION EXCERPTS FROM THE REVISED MANUAL:

1.     Loads shall not be flown over areas to be felled in the next 6 months, unless it is not reasonably practicable to avoid.

 

2.     Helicopters below 152 meters (500 ft.) shall not fly within 91 meters (300 ft.) horizontal distance from active fallers.  This does not pertain to ONLY when the helicopter is flying a loaded turn. This distance must be adhered to when the helicopter is EMPTY also. 

 

3.     Helicopters shall not fly close enough to active fallers to create hazardous rotor wash.

 

4.     On flat terrain, ground crews shall not come within two tree lengths of active fallers.

 

5.     On sloped terrain where logs may slide or roll onto them, ground crews shall not work below active fallers.

 

These 5 regulations place precise parameters, on the distance that the ground crews and helicopters, must maintain between themselves and the Fallers. The way that these 5 regulations are worded, were done so for a very important reason. You will see the wording reads: GROUND CREWS SHALL NOT WORK, HELICOPTERS SHALL NOT FLY. It does not say FALLERS SHALL NOT FALL. This is the first time in Logging Safety regulations that the onus is not put on the faller to carry the burden of making sure that the distance regulations are being followed. I have to point out at this time that  the representative of the major Helicopter companies, wanted nothing to do with discussing these kinds of regulations.

 

These regulations are worded in this way for a specific reason. Todd Campbell, of HRDS – Labour Program chaired the meetings that we attended. At these meetings he had a very clear message that he gave to Gary McDermid, of  Helifor Industries. He said to him “The way I see it the fallers are on the hill first. When the fallers start to fall their patch of timber they have a plan which they have put in place, so their job can be conducted in a safe and orderly manner. You are not going to arrive on the job, start logging where ever you want and to hell with the fallers.”  He then said “When we come to the job to check it out, and believe me we will, the distances that have been outlined in these regulations will be adhered to. If these regulations are not being followed it will be you, the Helicopter Company that we will be talking to first, and not the faller.” This does not mean that the fallers have no responsibility for what is going on, for we surely do, but they are to accommodate us and our Safety Concerns. This is not only going to make it safer for us but is also going to keep their rigging men out of harms way, something they do not seem to be that concerned about at times. It is going to make for a much safer worksite. This is something that we have been trying to achieve for some time. There are two more regulations in this manual that will have great impact on our job.

1.     Sufficient heli – pads should be constructed so that ground workers need not walk more then 20 minutes to their work location. Pads shall be capable of supporting the weight of the helicopter and passengers.

2.     Fallers will often build paths of fallen trees leading from near the heli – pad they are dropped off at, to the area they are falling. These paths allow fallers and woodland crews to more safely access their work areas, and also allow first aid attendants to more quickly respond to and evacuate injured workers. As the fallers work progresses and new heli – pads are built, the paths are no longer used. However, these paths contribute to the safety of the operation, and if practicable should not be logged while still in use.

It is becoming more and more common that when a Helicopter Logging job is started, the fallers have no air support until the big Helicopter arrives and logging commences. The reason for this is “It costs too much for support helicopter for just the fallers.” On a lot of jobs we find ourselves walking to our work area, sometimes up to an hour. Not only do we have to walk this on our own time, if we are hurt the chances for a very serious situation to develop is almost certain. We will expect this regulation to be followed along with the others. We are the only workers in the Forest Industry that are put in this very dangerous situation.

There are other regulations in this manual that affect us also but these are the ones that we have been trying to get addressed for some time, with little success.

In a Helicopter Logging operation there are three agencies that are responsible for the workers safety.

1.     Transport Canada – Civil Aviation: The helicopter crew.

2.     HRSDC – Labour Program: The ground crew.

3.     WCB: The loggers that are involved in the operation.

 

The cooperation of the Contract Fallers and the IWA Steel was instrumental in achieving this precise set of regulations that is going to make the working day of the faller a whole lot safer.   We should both be very proud of the work that was accomplished.

Randall Shoop: Representing the Fallers in these negotiations

These regulations are taken from the web site of WORKSAFE- search- Helicopter Safety

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