Ensuring the safety of forestry workers has led to the installation of cameras on front-line equipment in some operations in the Cowichan Lake area, and across the province.
Following the lead of the TimberWest forest company and Campbell River’s T-MAR Industries on logging sites in northern Vancouver Island, TimberWest’s contractors that are working in the southern section of the Island, including in areas around Cowichan Lake, have installed newly developed cameras in their grapple-yarding operations.
Grapple yarding, a mainstay on the B.C. coast for decades, is a procedure that pulls felled timber off steep slopes to a collection point.
The grapple yarder is similar to the game at the fair where you try to grab a stuffed toy by controlling a grapple with a joystick.
Except, with a grapple yarder, the log may be 500 feet away or more from the operator’s cab.
In fact, the operator may not even be able to see the log due to undulating slopes or poor visibility.
To help the operator spot and grab the logs, a person called a hook tender is located near the logs and communicates back to the operator via a two-way radio.
Unfortunately, the hook tender can inadvertently end up in the line of fire through error or miscommunication.
It was a solemn day at TimberWest in Jan., 2015, when a hook tender was seriously injured when struck by a log.
On the incident investigation, the question was asked: “How can this situation be avoided going forward?”
The Holy Grail in safety is to engineer the risk out of the job.
The simple solution was to put a camera on the grapple and a screen in the operator’s cab.
A company in New Zealand had pioneered the technology, but T-MAR fine-tuned the cameras to suit the Canadian terrain
T-MAR has been operating in Campbell River for more than 30 years designing and manufacturing forestry equipment, including grapple yarders.
TimberWest and T-MAR joined forces and TimberWest agreed to support T-MAR’s development costs, and soon after an initial order for eight cameras for the forest company’s operations in northern Vancouver Island was placed to underpin the business case.
TimberWest’s contractors on the south Island, including in the Cowichan Lake area, were also keen to adopt the new technology as well, and have purchased grapple cameras from Great West Forestry Equipment, a heavy equipment dealership with 11 branch offices across B.C. and the Yukon that adopted the technology developed by T-MAR.
“We are very pleased to work with forward-thinking local companies like T-MAR to improve safety and productivity outcomes,” said Jeff Zweig, president and CEO of TimberWest.
“T-MAR is working hard to innovate with its in-house engineering team. British Columbia has a truly world-class timber resource and challenging terrain. With that comes the opportunity to make B.C. a centre of global excellence in forest-sector technology and equipment. We have the ultimate proving ground.”