June is Safety Month- Enough Said!


In 1996, the National Safety Council www.NSC.org  established June as National Safety Month. It’s no surprise. Their goal was to increase awareness of health and safety risks in order to decrease the injuries and deaths among workers in the United States. It’s a noble gesture. Everyone wants fewer injuries and fatalities in the workplace. I’m the first to say my goal is to avoid serious injury and my own demise! No one wants to become a statistic! We have places to go and people to see. Besides that, I’m still working on getting that elusive single-digit handicap on a hopeless and challenging double-digit golf game!    

Last week’s Woods to Mill post, The Logging Safety Quandary: Why the Number 22.8 Matters, highlighted that logging is a dangerous occupation, and the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show it’s getting worse. I’ve been involved with logger training for three decades and have observed one thing: you can provide the best training and most updated equipment, but you can’t “train” experience and you can’t control “free will.”

A good example came when I was doing chainsaw training for a group of state park employees. They were seasonal and full-time workers who used chainsaws on an “as needed” basis. When storms wreak havoc in the park, they have to clean up the mess and make it look pretty again. I had reviewed the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for chainsaw operations and asked one of the attendees who had significant experience cutting firewood if he wore chainsaw chaps. He replied “no” and that they were hot and uncomfortable. There’s that “free will” I mentioned earlier. He agreed with everything I said and commented that he liked the new style of chainsaw pants I was wearing, but he wouldn’t agree to wear chainsaw leg protection. Regardless of his answer, I appreciated the honesty when I asked a pointed question. The irony came when I asked who wore gloves when filing a chain. He said he always wore gloves because the chain would cut his fingers when he filed!

In another training, I found myself talking about the benefits of hardhats and how over time, ultraviolet light weakens the shell of the hardhat. A logger in the back of the room spoke up, saying he was removing a lodged tree last year when he was struck in the head by the falling tree. He sustained a gash from the hardhat because the nylon suspension inside broke loose. He concluded that the hardhat saved his life and that eight staples in the head were a small price to pay! Just one more example of someone exercising their “free will” to choose. 

Personal testimonies are powerful tools of persuasion. When you go toe to toe with someone’s “free will,” don’t impress them with what you know but try to share a personal experience. Family members are the most persuasive people I know. I recently read an e-blast about Maryland’s 2022 Logger of the Year, Billy Singleton. It included everything you would expect from a LOTY winner. What caught my attention came from his family. Every Father’s Day, Billy receives a new hardhat, signed and personalized by his biggest fans, his kids. Here’s a positive example of a decision made by a logger exercising his “free will” and reinforced by his kids.

As I stated earlier, June is National Safety Month, and FRA will be sharing safety sheets to provide tips on:

  1. The Ergonomics of handling a chainsaw
  2. Personal Protective Equipment
  3. What’s included and required in a Loggers First Aid kit

Improving safety for loggers is a process and won’t happen overnight. I believe that patience and persuasion will lead to a positive result. A good time to start would be Father’s Day. It’s right around the corner and the perfect time to give your “weekend warrior” a new pair of chaps or hardhat, autographed and approved by some of his biggest fans!

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