In FY2013, a unique issue emerged in Washington State. Land management companies have come forward with concerns regarding the high risk classification for manual (non-mechanized) loggers. The Pacific Northwest’s slopes are steep and often prohibitive to the safer mechanized logging seen used now throughout the US. The high risk classification stems from two issues – the high hazard work taking place, but also avoidance of joining the workers compensation insurance pool/workers designated as independent contractors. The Washington State Logger Safety Initiative was launched in FY2014. In FY2013 PNASH’s Dr. John Garland advised on the Initiative Taskforce on education strategies and we will continue to assist as needed on education and evaluation efforts to understand our logging workforce, their risk factors, and what approaches make a meaningful impact in reducing injuries and fatalities within this workforce.
Dr. Garland has continued to work in close collaboration with Pacific Northwest contract loggers and state agencies responsible for logging and forestry sector safety. Dr. Garland serves on Oregon’s Forest Activities Board. In FY 2013 he consulted for the release of a Hazard Alert: Chainshot in Logging Hazard. He and Marcy Harrington also work on the NIOSH NORA Forest Sector Council, a group that has addressed national priorities and emerged hazards such as Chain Shot from mechanized equipment.
On a national level PNASH collaborated with Dr. Garland in the sponsorship of a two-day meeting, Forestry Workforce Review and Assessment, September 16-17. The meeting was held in Washington DC to bring together forestry sector leaders and assess recent and anticipated changes in the forestry workforce as well as current and projected workforce development needs, including improvements to workforce safety and health. Representatives came from a broad spectrum of the forestry industry leadership– from logging contractors, land managers, heavy equipment manufacturers, professional forestry and NIOSH AgFF Centers. The key issues identified were: estimating the forestry workforce with limited data sets and discrepancies in national level data; lack of health and non-fatal injury information; loss of expertise when the currently aging workforce retires; and training needs for young and inexperienced workers as they enter the post-recession workforce and replace retiring workers. Outcomes from the meeting include the identification of next step projects, the formation of an Action Planning Committee to address immediate needs and the need to create and sustain an ongoing forestry network.
PNASH is continuing to explore the complex issue of Hispanic contract reforestation workers. Planning is currently underway with Northwest partners for a project addressing the safety needs of this underserved workforce. Forest restoration or service work is the planting, managing (e.g. for fire hazard reduction) and thinning of commercial forestlands – remote and challenging work conducted on both public and private lands. Regionally this work is often done by immigrant Hispanic workers, frequently recruited directly from Mexico and working under a H2B visa for small contractors.