Article by Jari Mennala
Director, Sales-Marketing
John Deere Forestry U.S./Canada/Latin America

As a logger, many things compete for your attention, among them: a harsh and changing environment, long hours, looming deadlines, managing a fleet and crews. Any one of these could distract you from operating safely, which is why it is so essential that safety remain the focus of everything you do.

Today’s machines are equipped with modern safety features, but at the end of the day, keeping your equipment and work environment safe is up to you and your employees. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and there are important steps that can (and should) be taken to ensure the safety and health of everyone on a logging team.

There is a wealth of information available on workplace safety and safety programs within the workplace. Across the board, several common themes arise: 1) all injuries and fatalities are preventable; 2) visible management, commitment and consistent “leading by example” are the keys to success in safety; 3) a sustainable improvement in safety comes through change in attitudes and behavior of people; 4) communication and reporting is incredibly valuable; and 5) safety begins at home and in our daily lives.

The idea is that safety in the workplace is a continuation of safety in our daily lives. Creating a culture of safety, according to industry and agency experts, is to maintain effective standards to protect workers. Standards are voluntary practice guidelines to help workplaces meet regulatory requirements. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your own culture of safety within your organization.

Develop a safety policy. Having a strong, structured policy in place to ensure everyone on your team is aligned in terms of safety is an ideal first step. Whether your logging operation includes just a few machines or a large fleet, five employees or 50, ensuring your team has proper tools in place is crucial.

Some key components of a safety policy may include: 1) Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job you’re doing, including a hard hat, safety shoes, gloves, eye and hearing ­protection, and reflective clothing; 2) knowing where to find and how to use fire extinguishers or fire suppression systems and emergency equipment, including first-aid kits; 3) understanding jobsite rules and regulations related to your application and equipment. These expectations will vary according to work environment or geographical location.

Commit to a safe workplace. Once a structured program is in place, it’s important that you constantly review the safety standards that apply to your work and ensure these standards are fully met by all employees. Demonstrating an ongoing, genuine commitment to workplace health and safety at all levels of the organization, from the top down, is key. It is also critical to ensure that all workers are properly trained and supervised by competent personnel. Young and/or new workers tend to have more injuries, largely due to inadequate training and supervision.

Make health and safety an integral part of organizational meetings, hiring, promoting, objectives, publications, and reviews. If you’re in need of additional support, contact a safety association, private consultant or the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for more information.

Safety and your equipment. Forestry equipment manufacturers are making great strides in the name of safety. For example, the John Deere L and M series machines were designed so that all filters, grease points and critical components are easily reached from ground level. This keeps the operator safe from slips and also reduces maintenance time.

John Deere has also gone to great lengths to increase visibility across its entire portfolio of forestry machines. The improved sightline on the front, sides and rear of the cab helps increase productivity and keeps the operator safe by enabling him to be more aware of what is going on around his machine.

Practice regular safety inspections. Without a doubt, safety inspections should also be an essential part of every logging operation’s safety routine. Not only are they necessary for the well being of your crew, they are also a crucial step to keep your machines operating efficiently and issue-free throughout a product’s lifecycle. Fortunately, these frequently overlooked practices are some of the easiest to perform, and typically don’t require a mechanic or specialist. Many inspections can be conducted monthly, while a few may be needed more often, depending on operating conditions.

Playing it safe with regular inspections will go a long way toward optimized working conditions for your crew, increased productivity, reduced downtime and lower overall operating costs. When in doubt, check with your dealer for additional information on safety inspections to incorporate in your maintenance routine.

Whether you are just starting out or an established logging operation with years of experience, safety is good for your business. Good safety practices save lives, prevent injuries and improve your bottom line.