Slips, Trips and Falls cause injury, loss of productivity and have dire financial consequences for both the individual, and the company. A look at what contractors and planters can do to avoid these accidents.
Have you been ignoring those planters who work in running shoes? Did you shrug off that knee injury claim that lasted 50 days because it’s the ‘name of the game’? Do you high five the planter who runs off the block to fit in one more bag up?
Slips, trips and falls are the number one cause of workplace injuries in the silviculture industry. Between 2006-2010 they represented over $82 million in claims costs for forestry companies!
If you have ever had a worker roll an ankle or twist a knee due to a misstep on the block you know that the cost of the claim is only one part of the total expense to your company – there is downtime to deal with the injured worker for your first aid attendant, foreman and supervisor; lost production capacity while the worker is out of commission; extra recruitment and training costs to bring in a new planter and one more thing to deal with in an already busy season!
Slips, trips and falls happen when a planter loses their footing on an unstable surface or makes contact with a branch and compromises their balance. Poor footwear, weak supporting musculature, overloaded bags and moving too quickly can all contribute to these types of injuries.
Tips to prevent slipping, tripping and falling on the block:
- Make fitness a priority
Many of our workers arrive out to the field undertrained for the start of the season. You may wish to offer support (in the form of gym passes, incentives or send information on workout plans) to encourage participation in cardiovascular fitness and strength training programs in the months before to start up. Programs such as the Fit to Plant by Dr. Delia Roberts offer silviculture specific training. Both Men’s Health & Women’s Health magazine offers iPhone apps with strength training workouts. For local workforces, consider encouraging crews to play recreational league sports (dodgeball anyone?) for team building and fitness opportunities.
- Practice good PPE
Footwear appropriate for the type of ground being planted is critical to keeping your planters on their feet. Assess the terrain to determine how much ankle support is required, how aggressive the tread should be , if caulks should be used and how durable the boot material needs to be.
- Focus on education around self care
Adequate rest, good hydration and proper nutrition help ensure your planter is able to prevent a stumble from becoming a fall. Each worker will make their own choices around how they spend their downtime but education in the form of safety meeting topics, reading material at camp and in the crew trucks and coaching/mentoring from experienced planters will help planters understand the full impact of their decision to stay up late or rehydrate with fizzy fluids.
- Show me the money!
Piece rate workers are motivated by their ability to produce. Draw the connection to the dollars to help support your efforts in an injury prevention campaign. Studies that show a decrease in performance with athletes could be used to show how it may impact a planters earning power. For instance, a 10% drop in production over a shift may mean 500 less tree’s planted. At 22 cents per tree that planter is missing out on over $100 of income!
- Outsource your injury prevention efforts
The BC Forest Safety Council offers information on slips, trips and falls and other injury management strategies. In spring 2012 the Council will offer an info package and webinar on training your workers on slips, trips and falls hazards and ways to improve your SMS to deal with this issue. If you don’t see what you need, ask! They are there to assist your company.
WorkSafe BC also has a number of resources on ergonomics, stretching, prevention tools and claims management support. Look to other industries for help on how they deal with challenges around slips, trips and falls in the field, working around equipment and on the shop floor. General safety information should be adapted to fit your crews and your company’s safety management system for best results.
Laura worked in the silviculture industry for 11 years. She now brings her field experience to helping companies create practical solutions to their safety issues and wishes she could have taken her own advice when she was putting in trees. She can be reached at Maguire@bcforestsafe.org.