$afety $aves - Tim McEntire

Updated: Sep 29

Recently I stumbled across a rather entertaining channel on YouTube called AvE. What got me watching AvE’s videos was a rather humorous and foul language fueled review of the latest and greatest hand-held tool that I had recently purchased. After tearing apart this poor tool, he showed in great detail why to my dismay that my new tool was affectionally being called “garbage”. The next video was him machining the perfect griddle for steaks, then on to how awful and dangerous hi-lift jacks are and then a series on turning an old John Deere skidder into a rather worthless forklift. This man’s vocabulary includes words like skookum and gypo and are littered with a large range of explicit language. Needless to say, I was hooked and soon fell down a dark rabbit hole with this gentlemen’s YouTube channel. After several hours of laughing and learning with this crazy Canadian, I subscribed to his channel and called it a day.

The next morning, my phone buzzed with a notification that my new favorite YouTube channel had a fresh video for me to watch. The video was labeled “Kelowna crane collapse explained”. AvE went into a different direction I had not seen in his other videos. Gone was the humor and in was the anger as he went into a full explanation of what had happened. Earlier in the month, a high-rise crane had collapsed in the Canadian city of Kelowna. The company that owned the crane was dissembling it, which is no easy feat. To sum it up, basically the crane needs to be in perfect balance and a rig called a hydraulic climber is moved into place. This allows one section of the mast to be removed and the whole crane moves down a section and the process is repeated. During this process, something went terribly wrong in Kelowna and the crane collapsed killing five workers.

No official report has been released to the public but in AvE’s opinion the crane was allowed to operate unbalanced during climbing/disassembly. There are several surveillance videos that seem to support this theory according to AvE. One very disturbing video is from the crane operator’s Instagram account. It shows him removing one piece of the mast all while he had his phone in his hand filming the whole thing. The workers around the piece do not have PPE on or as AVE puts it, wearing their Invisalign hard hats and fall protection. This was all taking place 100+ feet off the ground. This all points to one glaring issue, the lack of a safety culture.

So how does all this relate to the profession we call logging? Safety culture starts from the top down. As AvE put it, a fish rots from the head and the first to go is the eyes. If the boss isn’t enforcing safety, then soon you will find yourself in what is called a “normalization of deviance”. Normalization of deviance was first used by American sociologist Diane Vaughan to describe the process where a clearly unsafe practice comes to be considered normal if it does not immediately cause a catastrophe. It was first used to describe the events that led up to the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. After Challenger exploded, the Rogers Commission found that NASA had overlooked a problem with o-rings in their rockets since 1977 and on the day of the launch NASA managers also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures. Becoming complacent with safety is never a good thing and will eventually come back to haunt you. You might get away not putting your seatbelt on or not putting the park brake on or not getting in the clear or not wearing your hard hat for a long time and soon being unsafe and reckless is just “normal”. All it takes is one time that it doesn’t work to dramatically change your life and it is not a matter of if but when it will happen.

It may be uncomfortable or exhausting for you to ride your crew about safety all the time. I read through the comments on AvE’s video and one person said that he would rather jump his guys about safety all the time than have to make one call to a spouse. I highly suggest you sit down and assess your operations. Have you found yourself in a normalization of deviance? Can you afford for you or your crew to get hurt? Do you want to be the one to call a spouse with the news that they are now a widow? At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. Everyone to come home safe. Employees are becoming harder and harder to find, so keeping them safe is more important than ever and as always, $afety $aves.

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