Who is the NW forestry workforce?
The iconic Northwest image of a lumberjack swinging his axe amid towering conifers has not reflected reality for over a century. Technology has made mechanized logging the norm, except on the steepest slopes, such as many in the Northwest. And the workforce today does not reflect the logging workforce even a generation ago. Experienced loggers are aging and the new workforce has a high turnover rate. A reliable Hispanic workforce is becoming more common in both forest restoration and logging, presenting new challenges with communications (critical to safety) and subcontractor management. As the workforce changes, safety and health efforts must change with it or workers will pay the price in injuries or their lives.
- Logging fatality rates exceed the national average by 30 times.
- Research rates logging among the most exertive work.
- Injury and death rates in logging and related industries have often been cyclical. For example, injuries among Oregon loggers increased 77% after the 1980-1981 recession as companies quickly rebuilt their workforces.
- Data in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho show that loggers who are least 45 years old represent around 50% of the workforce, a percentage that is growing. Other states and countries show similar trends.
- Latino immigrant workers are increasingly finding employment as laborers in Pacific Northwest forests in logging and represent the majority of forest service workers.
- Forest services (management, nurseries, and specialty forest product harvesting, among others) are an expanding industry, growing with the need to more actively mange our forests, such as to reduce fuel loads to prevent forest fire.
- The forestry services industry also has a high rate of injuries and illness. From 2003 to 2008, there was an average of 8.86 injuries and illnesses per 100 workers in Oregon compared to an average of 5.3 per 100 workers for all of private industry. Common injuries include broken bones, open wounds, severe poison oak rashes, and dehydration. Although not as high as the fatality rate for loggers, the fatality rate among forest workers is higher than the rate for all industries.
Our forest and logging research priorities are developed on participation with stakeholders.
See the National Occupational Research Agenda for Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing.
- PNASH Forest Safety Website
- Forest Worker Safety Review Newsletter
- Vibration and Noise Exposure in Forestry Workers
- Synthetic Rope For Logging Rigging is replacing wire rope. It is as strong as steel wire rope, it is the same diameter, and it weighs about 90% less. In research trials it has demonstrated improvements to workload, strain, and fatigue.
- Occupational Safety and Health of Forest Workers
- Safety and Health of Immigrant Forest Workers on the Olympic Peninsula projects:
- Cedar Block Harvesters
- Salal Harvesters - The Sustainable Harvest Project
Other PNW Projects
GPS Tracking of Heavy Logging Equipment & Ground Workers. Researchers at University of Idaho’s (UI) Experimental Forest will test Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to reduce injury and fatality rates and increase communication and awareness among loggers.
Protecting the Logging Workforce: Development of Innovative Logging Techniques for a Safety Working Environment. This three year Oregon State University study will develop guidelines for innovative logging systems using cable-assisted falling machines, prebunching of turns, and enhanced visibility for grapple logging that can eliminate or reduce the need for high risk manual activities.
Recommended Safety Resources
Programs & Information Clearinghouses
- Logging Tips | Amerisafe
- Logging Resources | Center for Research on Occupation and Environmental Toxicology (CROET)
- National Timber Harvesting & Transportation Safety Foundation
- Logging Safety Research | NIOSH
- Logging E-tool | Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA)
- Logging Safety Recognition, Control, and Standards |Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA)
Also consider contacting local associations; Membership-based programs offer excellent training and insurance information and support.
Additional Relevant Topics
Comprehensive Spanish Materials
- Oregon safety and health program for forest activities - Sample program (Spanish and English)
- Forest activities hazard training cards and glossary of terms (Spanish and English)
- Restoration forestry training modules (Spanish and English)
Also see below for additional Spanish language materials.
Chain Shot in Mechanized Logging
- Hazard of chain shot in logging | Oregon OSHA
- Protect yourself from pesticides | Oregon OSHA (Spanish and English)
- National Pesticide Information Center
- Current Worker Protection Standard (WPS) | U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Wood Products |CROETWEB
Heat Related Illness
- Outdoor Heat Exposure | WA Dept. of Labor & Industries
- OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers (multiple languages)
- Heat Illness Prevention | PNASH Center (Spanish and English)
- Aches, Pains, and Strains | PNASH Center article, 2009
- Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention - See the noise meter! | NIOSH/CDC
- Hearing Loss - Risks and Prevention | PNASH Center article, 2008
Reforestation and Restoration Forestry
- Crowding the Rigging | Oregon OSHA
- Reducing Workloads for Older Lggers in Physcially Demanding Logging Tasks with Synthetic Rope | PNASH Center pilot project
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Personal Protective Equipment for Logging | Washington Department of Labor & Industries
Danger Tree Identification
- Field Guide for Danger Tree Identification and Response | U.S. Forest Service
- Guidelines for Selecting Reserve Trees | Washington Department of Labor & Industries
- General Safety, Health and Labor | PNASH Center links
- Association of Oregon Loggers
- Idaho Logging Safety Bureau
- Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Association
- Montana Logging Association
- Northwest Forest Worker Center
- Washington Contract Loggers Association
- Washington Department of Labor & Industries and the Washington State Logger Safety Initiative
- Work Safe British Columbia