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Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center

New Safety Research Serving the Northwest Logging & Forestry IndustryPNW forests by Stacey Holland

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has made logging and forestry a funding priority due to the excessive risk for fatal work injuries. Following a call for proposals, three successful awards were granted in the Northwest to the University of Washington, University of Idaho and Oregon State University. Take a look at these important new research directions.

• For logging and forestry safety resources, visit PNASH’s Northwest Forest Worker webpage.

arrow image Protecting the Logging Workforce: Development of Innovative Logging TechNIques for a Safer Working Environment

(NIOSH/CDC September 2015 - August 2018)

Until recently, the Northwest's steep slopes have restricted the adoption of the safer, mechanized, practices that have swept the rest of the US. Instead, steep slope harvesting has continued to rely on the manual work of timber fallers, choker setters and chasers, the most hazardous jobs in logging. This three year study will develop guidelines for innovative logging systems using cable-assisted falling machines, prebunching of turns, and enhanced visibility for grapple logging that can eliminate or reduce the need for high risk manual activities. Four specific aims are proposed: Demonstration of new mechanized logging systems with industry, assessment of safety improvements and physiological response of workers during operation, development of design guidelines and criteria for new logging systems, and the delivery of outreach and educational information.

Contact: Kevin Boston, Oregon State University Kevin.Boston@oregonstate.edu541-737-9171


(NIOSH/CDC September 2015 - August 2018)

Researchers at University of Idaho’s (UI) Experimental Forest will test Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to reduce injury and fatality rates and increase communication and awareness among loggers. The GPS  technology will allow equipment operators to track the locations of their fellow workers without leaving the equipment cab. “Federal support of research to improve the safety of employees engaged in this dangerous, yet highly necessary industry is timely and relevant to the industry,” said Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho. “I can’t think of anywhere more suited for conducting this research than on the UI Experimental Forest.”

The grant is an example of how the College of Natural Resources uses state money through the Forest Utilization Research budget to leverage further competitive funding for relevant research impacting Idaho’s economy. Natural resources and the associated industries contribute more than $5.4 billion to Idaho’s economy each year, according to UI’s Policy Analysis Group. The Associated Logging Contractors also supports the project.

Contact: Robert Keefe, UI College of Natural Resources, robk@uidaho.edu208-310-0269


Cedar Block Cutter

(NIOSH/CDC September 2014 - August 2017)

The forest service workforce in the Pacific Northwest is largely immigrant, low literate, and Spanish-speaking. These workers, distinct from the logging workforce, do remote reforestation, rehabilitation and forest thinning/cutting, and all other tasks necessary to tend America’s forests. Job-related injury and illness rates among these workers are 2 to 3 times the rates of the average US worker, and fatality rates are 9 times as high. They are uniquely vulnerable due to a lack of skills and safety training, occupational immobility, remoteness of work locations, and small contractor employment. This research-to-practice project will examine how working conditions for Latino immigrant forest workers contribute to work-related injuries and illnesses as well as how worker fears of retaliation influence their attempts to improve workplace safety and health. Previous PNASH funded research demonstrated a critical need for safety and health training among immigrant forest workers. In partnership with the Northwest Forest Worker Center, the University of California Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program, and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, PNASH will assess injury and health risks for Latino immigrant forest service workers and create story-telling-based education and prevention materials. These resources will draw on true stories told by workers' peers in order to develop safety and health messages that are relevant, relatable, and culturally appropriate. These materials will be designed for use by supervisors and community health workers. 

Contact: Marcy Harrington, PNASH Center marcyw@uw.edu206-685-8962, or Carl Wilmsen at the Northwest Forest Worker Center, carl@nwforestworkers.org510-525-4053


Oregon forest activities code in Spanish

(Oregon OSHA April 2015 - March 2016)

This small project supported by Oregon OSHA will produce a glossary of forestry services terms in Spanish using the most common Spanish idiom used by forestry services firms. Latino Hispanic forestry workers provide valuable work in various forest management activities and they face many hazards. Language barriers and the use of specific technical and lay jargon, complicates effective safety communication. Workers are unfamiliar with the tasks they perform, forest management practices, and goals. Developing an understanding of their work will improve forest stewardship, worker skill development, and safety. Using a common set of terms will help firms, supervisors, and workers communicate safety concerns and best practices.

Contact: John Garland, johngarland49@gmail.com541-563-3555


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Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center

Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences | School of Public Health | University of Washington

Box 357234 | Seattle, WA | USA 98195-7234 | 206.616.1958 |

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