Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

November 2012

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Much of the year, we trudge to the woods in our trusty pick-ups, coffee or high-octane energy drink in-hand (featuring some variation of “mountain” or severe weather in the name). During the commute, we often have things on our mind like the cost of fuel, quotas, finance rates and wood prices. With the change of the season, however, it’s the time of year when many of us are heading to the woods for a different reason; to bag that big buck, and put some fresh venison in the freezer! While we may be driving that same pick-up to the same woods for our hunting trip, one thing should be different; when the firearm deer season is open, at least 50% of our outer layer of clothing from the waist up should be blaze orange. Of course we commonly wear blaze orange while hunting, but let’s reflect on why bright color is also a good idea when we return to work after tagging our trophy (or getting skunked in my case).

When we think of chainsaw PPE, we should first think of a hardhat including eye and ear protection, a good pair of wrap-around style chaps or cutting pants, then our boots and gloves (cut resistant if we’re serious). Rarely when we think of PPE, do we think of color. For now, forget about high impact composites, ballistic nylon, Kevlar, decibel ratings, steel toed battle suits. Simply think color. Color doesn’t enable the hardhat to stop falling debris or bind up a carelessly operated chainsaw, but what it DOES do, is help us establish our safe work zone. In a worst-case scenario, bright color also enables rescue workers to locate an injured worker quickly.

If we’re slipping through the bush toward our hunting spot and see blaze orange up ahead, a true sportsman will re-evaluate his or her route, avoid the other hunter’s claimed area and keep the cursing to a whisper. A safe work zone begins with you. As we are cutting timber, we should be visible to machine operators, land owners and even snooping, curious neighbors. This is to help them know where the center of our zone is and not to enter it without acknowledgement or permission. Those approaching our safe work zone should also wear bright color. It is just as important for us to see someone entering our work area so we can hold off on releasing that properly notched and bore-cut veneer maple, until they too are in their safe zone.

If we become injured or immobile, bright color allows us to be seen from a distance. This helps others evaluate whether or not we need assistance or extraction from the area. Color plays in to the OSHA requirement of maintaining visual or audible communication. Much like a signal booster increases the distance and service capabilities of our cell phone, color increases the distance in which we can be seen. From a distance, a moving orange or green vest and hardhat indicates a safe and productive worker. (Keep in mind I said “indicates”, not “guarantee”). A non-moving orange or green vest could indicate an injured worker in need of medical assistance. (I guess it could also indicate a non-productive worker, but that’s a topic for another issue on loss prevention and work ethic). Without brightly colored PPE, we quickly discover that “grease stained carhartt”could be the new trendy camo-pattern.

Take time to evaluate your PPE. When it becomes damaged, expired, soiled beyond cleaning or faded, replace it. The cost of supplying adequate PPE is miniscule compared to accidents or injury resulting from a statement like “I just didn’t see them”. Be safe and happy hunting!

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or

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