Forestry demands worker safety
In New Zealand, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector has the highest number of fatal work-related injury deaths. In 2013, WorkSafe New Zealand recorded 10 forestry worker fatalities and in 2012, one in 35 forestry workers were seriously harmed at work. In high-risk occupations such as those in the forestry industry, it is crucial for safe workplace practices to be implemented and followed by all workers.
Jeremy Hayes, director of Dennis Hayes Logging, says worker safety is paramount and constant, clear communication between logging crew members is key. “The radio system has improved safety as everyone knows what’s going on and where everyone is,” he said.
Tree fellers often work on opposite sides of a hill, unseen by anyone. Therefore, the radio is an important tool for monitoring the safety of workers in these lone-worker situations.
Previously, workers had to call in every 30 minutes, but now the radio starts an alert tone at 27 minutes “so workers can get on with the job without having to worry about keeping track of time, yet they’re still monitored for safety in the lone-worker situation”, said Hayes.
“If they don’t call in within two minutes, an emergency beacon is sent to the whole crew,” he said.
“Every morning, we record which radio each worker has, so if the emergency beacon goes off, we know who is affected.”
The company is also planning to implement the man-down function of the radio, which triggers an alarm if the handset is horizontal for more than a certain period of time.
When dealing with wire ropes extending up to one kilometre long, working loads of up to 25 tonnes and three workers standing in a safe zone dictating rope movements, it’s crucial that commands are communicated clearly so they are heard correctly.
Hayes says the company uses the Bluetooth digital headset in the log hauler for clarity of commands. “When I first used it, it was like the guy was sitting beside me,” he said.
The radio solution has three channels: one for log extraction, one for felling and general operations, and the loader uses the third channel to speak to the truck driver while loading logs, in order to maintain a safe distance while retaining full communication and control.
Safety and efficiency have improved using the radio solution, which also features text and voice-recording functionality. “We record all voice calls, which is essential for any incident analysis,” says Hayes.
“Where trees are dragged up the flying fox system we have colour-coded zones (ie, red means high risk) to determine where guys should stand. We can record employees as they change zones.” The GPS-tracking functionality on the handhelds is also being considered for the future, to ensure that employees are the correct distance away from the working ropes.
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