Certain careers are known to put employees lives at risk every day. A policeman might be at risk of being assaulted by a violent criminal, pilots run the risk of falling out of the sky and fishermen tragically drown in massive numbers out at sea.
This is accepted to be the nature of the job. One day you’re waving goodbye to your family, the next day they are saying goodbye at your funeral. Men and women go to work each day knowing in the back of their minds it could be their last.
Logging is known to be the most hazardous occupation in North America. The recorded figure is 132.7 workers killed out of every 100,000. To put this in context, the average rate is 3.6 deaths per 100,000 in conventional employment.
Operating as a sawyer on a squad of tree-surgeons is 39 times more likely to get you killed than the average job. This rate is double the second highest figure which is for commercial trawlermen.
Sawyers are tasked with harvesting timber from the forest. This occupation is essential as they gather raw materials for construction as well as paper products like money. Furniture and printed products originate in the forest, plucked from the trees by the expert hand of the cutting crew.
Logging is an extremely dangerous occupation for a number of reasons. Firstly, the tools used in the trade are hazardous as chainsaws and larger machinery can cut through a human limb in mere seconds. A well-oiled blade can cut through human flesh like a knife through soft butter.
Now, factor in the steep and rugged terrain that sawyers are operating in. If there were to be an unfortunate accident, the injured party is isolated deep in the forest. An airlift may take hours to reach the wounded worker and even then, the terrain will hinder a clean rescue.
Trees can be unpredictable as there is no way to examine the rot within. Without warning, enormous timber trees that measure over a hundred feed can come tumbling towards the ground. An errant gust of wind might topple a tree that is teetering in the wrong direction, injuring a whole crew below. For this reason, loggers are always advised to keep their eyes raised to the sky in anticipation of dangerous falling debris.
Sawyers are often harnessed to the tree that is going to come down, high up in the ridge-line. Can you imagine the danger in heavy rain, sleet or even whipping snow? A chainsaw could slip from your grip or a tree might collapse from beneath.
Logging fatalities are on the rise as companies cut costs and force staff into ever longer hours. Tiredness creeps in and safety equipment malfunctions, leading to a tragic loss of human life that could so easily be avoided.
Economics is the main driver of employee fatalities. In an interview with the Penny Hoarder, Jeff Wimer, senior instructor, and manager of the Student Logging Training Program at Oregon State University explains: “This equipment will cost in the range of millions. The question is how to make that much pay for itself. How can we increase production enough while maintaining a safe work environment to make these systems cost-effective?”
There also needs to be grass-roots efforts to improve safety regulations with better training at every level. This is echoed when Wimer writes: “These young [loggers] need to be leaders when it comes to safety in our industry. Logging can be dangerous, but with proper training and awareness, we can greatly reduce the accidents and fatalities that occur all too regularly.”
Companies have traditionally been slow to react to unsafe conditions. Loggers realize the danger and most think it is only a matter of time before they become a statistic. Every day that they are not on the wrong side of a chainsaw is a lucky one.
Difficult occupations like this are necessary and deserve our respect. These are brave men and women who risk their lives for the products we take for granted each day. These skilled trades should not be looked down upon as the jobs are the most dangerous in America.
Next time you complain about a skinny latte at Starbucks being too cold or the bus being late, spare a thought for these men and women, living on a knife edge so that we don’t have to.