TOTAL CASE INCIDENT RATES OF MECHANIZED LOGGING OPERATIONS IN THE WESTERN U.S.
INTRODUCTION: Oregon State University researchers conducted an initial study of the Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR) for Mechanized Logging operations in the 12 FRA Western Region states. One objective was to establish a TCIR estimate similar to Virginia Tech's TCIR research in Southern states. FRA Technical Release 05-R-5 presents that study's findings, as accumulated since 1996.
FINDINGS: Mechanized logging in the West includes "shovel logging" (tracked log loader swinging logs), cut-to-length (harvester-forwarder) systems, and feller buncher/grapple skidder systems. The 12 Western states use a mix of Workers' Compensation insurance (WCI) and class coding reporting organizations. Only three states used distinct class coding for mechanized logging long enough to provide data for analysis: Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Utah has a mechanized specific class, but no policies of record. The remaining eight states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming) treat all logging as one class.
The TCIR represents the number of injury claims per 100 employees per year, calculated per standard practice:
Total number of claims * 200,000
TCIR = --------------------------------------
Total annual hours worked
Fig 1. Total Case Incident Rate for mechanized logging operations, 2003.
(Sample size: AK < 20, OR = 202, WA = 198, South = 260.)
The injury claims represent all accepted cases by the insurers (contrasted with OSHA minimum reportable claim threshold of $1,000 losses). Fig. 1 shows the number of claims per 100 workers for Alaska, Oregon, Washington and the reported TCIR of 4.9 for the 260 operations studied in 12 Southern states (from FRA Technical Release 05-R-5). The Oregon and Washington TCIR estimates are similar to the Southern states' value for similarly large samples (200 plus). Alaska's sample size is about 10% of the large samples.
Fig. 2: Total Case Incident Rate for Oregon mechanized logging operations,
2003-2007, NCCI code 2725. (Sample size > 200)
Oregon's TCIR estimate is a composite of cooperating insurers' data. Fig. 2 shows the five-year (2003-2007) trend for Oregon. In 2007, accepted claims were 60% of the previous 4-year average. This improvement may reflect recently mandated improvements in machine guarding for operators.
Washington has a monopolistic state-run WCI system. WA-SHARP (Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention) provided its results. The 4.5 injuries per 100 workers represents all mechanized operations in the state (100% sample). A majority of these claims were from operators "slipping when entering or exiting the cab of the machine" or "jumping from the machine's tracks to an unsafe location". Fig. 3 shows the 3-year (2003-2005) results for both mechanized and non-mechanized operations, an indication of how hazardous manual, primarily cable logging, operations are in the mountainous West.
Fig. 3: Total Case Incident Rate, Washington, 2003-2005, comparing traditional
logging operations (code 5001) to mechanized operations (code 5005).
RECOMMENDATIONS: The top five injury types by number of claims for mechanized logging operations in Oregon and Washington are summarized in Table 1. A similar trend exists in the total cost of claims.
Eyes, fingers, and backs incurred the most claims when classified by body part. These results suggest personal safety improvements are likely possible with: (1) being "in the clear" and avoiding pinch points, (2) proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and (3) use of handrails and footsteps / footholds with the 3-point climbing technique (combination of three contact points for hands and feet when ascending or descending).
However, Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA) rank as numbers 1 and 4 in Oregon and Washington, respectively. A "Defensive Driving" or other advanced Driving Safety course for operators is recommended. Washington MVA losses total 1,150 lost days over a 3-year period and approach $100,000 per claim. Returning home safely at the end of the day requires being safe in the woods and safe on the roads, both during transport of wood/equipment and the daily commute.
Economic competitiveness, differential WCI rates for mechanized operations, and a declining labor force should increase the number of mechanized Western logging operations. These factors, coupled with employer and employee commitments to safe operations, should improve worker safety.
Steve Pilkerton, PE Jeff Wimer
Research Forest Engineer Manager, Student Logging Training Program
Forest Engineering Department
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon 97331
FRA STAFF COMMENT: This publication was developed with funding provided by FRA's National Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety Foundation (THATS). Oregon State's completion of this research was possible with the cooperation of Tim Gammell, FRA Western Region Manager; western states logging contractor associations (AK, WA, OR, CA, ID, MT, CO); Washington State SHARP, OR-OSHA, NCCI; OR-SAIF, Liberty Northwest, Marsh Advantage America, and other WCI providers.
FRA Director of Forestry Programs