Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

March 2015

Is Breaking Up Really Hard To Do?

Spring break-up is fast approaching.  Most of us are very familiar with the oldies song, “Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka.  While logging activities during spring break-up can also be “hard to do”, there’s no reason we can’t make them safe to do!
Soon, our winter jobs will be mostly inoperable and efforts tend to focus more in the shop than the woods.   When it comes to shop safety awareness, know that we are faced with just as many hazards while servicing, repairing and maintaining our equipment, as operating in-woods.  Having a Lockout/Tagout Policy isn’t just a good idea, it’s a requirement.  Just imagine the catastrophe that could result if a piece of equipment isn’t properly shut down or is accidentally turned on during maintenance or repair.  Conducting meetings on topics like Lockout/Tagout procedures, electrical, shop and welding/hot-work safety are highly recommended this time of year. Lockout/Tagout procedures aren’t just for large, powered equipment in paper and saw mills; they are applicable to our harvesting and transportation equipment as well.  As a matter of fact, ALL logging, agriculture and construction equipment, transport vehicles, attachments and implements will have Lockout/Tagout procedures outlined in their operator’s manuals to protect employees during service and maintenance activities.  Heavy equipment and powered machinery can still be dangerous even when it appears to be shut down.  We may think we’re made of spring-steel and rawhide, but every year, hundreds of people are seriously injured or killed by failing to follow procedures intended to de-energize and ground equipment before service, maintenance or repair work.  Most, if not all, of these injuries and deaths are preventable.

Prior to service, maintenance or repair activities, the equipment must be shut down and placed in a zero energy state by following ALL recommended procedures.  Examples of energy include hydraulic pressure from a falling blade or boom and closing grapples, gravity resulting in unexpected rolling or falling, electrical energy causing shock or accidental starting of the equipment, air pressure and unexpected chemical exposure to skin or fire.  Notify supervisors and/or fellow employees before initiating Lockout/Tagout procedures and keep unauthorized personnel out of the area until the work has been completed. 

Locking and tagging mechanisms are intended to warn others of the activities being conducted and prevent the equipment from becoming inadvertently energized.  The lock/tag should only be installed by the person authorized and trained to perform the task at hand; this person it the only one that should also remove the lock/tag.  Again, only the person who installed the Lockout/Tagout device should remove it; no one is to bypass the Lockout/Tagout mechanism.  Never attempt to start equipment that has been locked for repair!  The only exception would be an extreme emergency situation.

Prior to working on the equipment, test the equipment to see if the lockout procedures are implemented correctly and the equipment does not move or otherwise exert or release energy.   When servicing, maintaining or repairing equipment in an elevated position, ensure the equipment is properly and adequately supported and secured by locking mechanisms, blocking and/or chains.  Before re-starting the equipment, make sure to replace all guards and place yourself and others out of the path of potential flying debris.  Notify employers and fellow employees when the work has been completed and Lockout/Tagout measures are removed.

Electrical hazards are also common in the shop atmosphere.  Receiving a shock during service, maintenance and repair activities is usually the result of touching a live wire from a poorly insulated power tool or faulty extension cord.  Plugging in a cord with wet hands or standing in water is also a common source of electrical shock.  Shock isn’t the only electrical hazard to be aware of though.  Poorly placed cords can also create trip hazards.  Electrical fires can result from bad cords, electric motors and overloaded circuits and cords.  Keeping flammables away from these hazards will help prevent explosions as well; and where there’s heat, there’s potential for a burn injury. 
Overhead service line clearance is also an issue when working with mobile equipment or on ladders.  In the woods, overhead lines aren’t extremely common, but when we get around the shop, there may be more overhead lined to contend with than we’re used to.  So what do we do in the event of electrical shock?  Send someone to call 911 immediately.  If possible and safe, shut the power off.  If the situation isn’t safe to turn off the power, use a long wooden object to remove the person away from the current…NEVER use your hands or conductive material!  If your equipment comes in contact with an overhead service line, jump off and get as far away as possible.  Do NOT touch the tractor and ground at the same time or attempt to re-enter the cab until the situation is completely de-energized.

Welding and cutting are regular tasks, both in the field and the shop.  Although the shop environment provides a more controlled environment, dangers like electrical shock and fire hazards, toxic gas exposure and fumes, burns, damage to eyes and hearing are common.  Make certain that you are properly trained to use welding and cutting equipment.  The owner’s manual is a great place to start in familiarizing yourself with equipment; read and understand it thoroughly.  Adequate ventilation is critical.  Open doors, windows and use exhaust fans.  Fire hazards should be at least 35 feet from hot-work and keep an operational fire extinguisher nearby.  If you find yourself conducting hot-work outside, it’s not a bad idea to keep a shovel handy for tossing dirt on a fire and have a second person available to watch for spot fires.  Investing in a welding curtain can also provide protection to others working in the vicinity.

As with any task, outfitting yourself, employees and co-workers with proper PPE is essential.  Always inspect your equipment and area prior to working and establish a safe work area.  Don’t forget, slips trips and falls are the most common causes of accidents in every environment.  Adequate lighting, keeping floors, work areas, exits and walkways slip-free, clutter-free and open will make a huge difference in avoiding slip, trip and fall injuries.  A clean, organized shop is a safe shop, but accidents can and do happen.  Have a fully stocked first aid kit, complete with important phone numbers and the address of the shop in a visible, accessible, known location.   Remember, the door to a safe work environment swings on the hinges of common sense.

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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