How to introduce logging safety equipment in developing countries

One component of sustainability in forestry is to care for the safety of the individuals risking their lives in this industry. Sustainable forestry requires concern for financial and ecological aspects of the business, but also social aspects: the people involved.

In much of the world safety is the number one priority for those overseeing logging operations. Safety is valued above everything else by loggers in developed countries and this leads to a number of benefits.

Safe timber harvesting operations mean workers feel happier, have better attitudes and of course suffer fewer injuries. Accidents cost not just with injuries, but they can lead to increased operating costs, lower production and lower profits.

There are also many safety measures imposed by government legislation in places such as the Europe and the USA. Logging operations have legal health and safety obligations that they must comply with, or face harsh punitive action. Unfortunately though, this is not always the case in developing countries where logging is big business.

Many loggers working in South America, for instance, do not enjoy the same protection that is afforded to North American loggers, where there are strict regulations imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or British loggers under the regulations of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Loggers in developed countries are often not given adequate safety equipment, because strict rules demanding this are not in place, or at any rate not enforced.

This problem grows worse still with the amount of illegal logging happening in countries all over the world. Illegal logging has been widespread, affecting countries including Armenia, Albania, Cambodia, China, Ghana, Indonesia, Philippines and Russia, according to the website Illegal Logging Portal. Where operations are illegal there is even less motivation for the people organising them to invest in safety equipment and procedures to protect their workers.

What equipment do these workers need?

There are many different pieces of safety equipment used in the logging industry which really are vital to the wellbeing of the men and women doing the hands-on work. This equipment includes the following:

Safety helmets – High quality safety helmets with ear defenders and face shields are a must for people working in logging.

• Protective gloves – A thick pair of safety gloves are also essential in this business.

• Steel toecap boots – Steel toecap boots protect feet from logging machinery and the rough terrain they often work on.

• First aid kits – Loggers should always carry a first aid kit and most operations insist on this.

• Chain break on chainsaws – To stop it working as soon as it is out of the hands of its operator.

• Snug clothing – Loose clothing presents unnecessary risks when working with dangerous equipment such as chainsaws.

Logging operation managers who do not provide this equipment to their workers are literally putting their lives on the line. This must be stopped.

How can we protect loggers in developing countries?

To make sure that loggers everywhere are given as much protection as possible – with safety equipment and health and safety procedures – there must be strict rules and effective ways to enforce them.

If organisations are allowed to get away with ignoring safety legislation workers will continue to operate at great risk. To effectively introduce safety equipment to developing countries the punishment to those who don’t must be harsh enough to make them comply. Whether this is done with the threat of large fines or other punitive action, it seems to be the only way to affect change.

In addition to that an increased demand for certifications like FSC could benefit safety standards in the forestry industry.

It would be nice to think that those running logging operations in developing countries would invest in the safety of their employees for the safety of their employees. Unfortunately in too many cases this just hasn’t happened.

Safety equipment is thankfully mandatory under bodies such as the FSC and this benefits loggers in numerous ways. It improves the CSR of a company, it shows that they are responsible businesses and it gives confidence to workers who risk their lives on a daily basis.

This post was written by Falcon Industrial, a company that sells professional safety equipment to the forestry trade.

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stefan.haas@openforests.com