Saturday, May 17, 2014

Slow Down to Safely Speed Up...

Slow Down to Safely Speed Up…
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Have you ever noticed the teamwork that takes place around a worksite when the chainsaw fires up? Everyone wants to help and it seems that supervisors and onlookers  all want everyone doing something immediately to get the job done. This has been the storm cleanup scenario for many years. Get R Done….

I can remember watching and listening years ago to Soren Eriksson at logging operations. He is a master at watching how equipment and ground workers operate in production situations and be able to increase their productivity and function in short order. He used to count how many times the wheels on the machine rolled backward and not forward. He would discuss the steps taken up and down the tree limbing and bucking of the logs. “Sometimes you can slow down to increase production and maintain a safe worksite”, Soren would say, “They need to cool the operation down.”  Locate the bottleneck and back up from there. You can quickly figure out where production is being lost and safety is being compromised. 

I have noticed the same is true with storm debris cleanup. I’ve observed some crews that put as many saws running as possible when they hit the storm site. Others have a saw or two running, and three, four or five people running back and forth with limbs and wood pieces to clear the area. Most of the time the saw operator can’t even watch the cut he or she is making. They have to constantly be looking where the pullers and other equipment is located in their work area. Equipment is used to lift or hold the trunk or limb material for the saw operator to cut it without binding.

The job gets done - but can it be improved for safety and productivity? Let’s think through the players and processes…

Equipment on the Ground
What is the job of a skid steer or backhoe in the cleanup operation? What is its design advantage in the process? The equipment is designed to move, or remove, material from the site to a staging area, chipper or haul truck. The equipment’s purpose is not to hold limbs and logs, if so, it is an expensive wedge. I may be proven wrong, but I haven't seen an operators manual for this type of equipment to date that states that anyone should be on the ground next to it while it’s operating either. 

Chippers at the site, along with haul trucks, should be positioned to minimize work site loading effort and not cause extra work or bottlenecks. Placing a chipper or haul truck in the wrong position makes those back tracks and reverse roll counts go higher. You don't want pullers walking around debris or objects nor changing directions with limbs etc to deliver them to the chipper and so the same with a truck or staging pile.

Chainsaw Operators
The chainsaw operator is the key element in debris cleanup after storms. If the chainsaw operator is trained properly, he or she doesn't need large equipment or limb pullers to do their job. Equipped with a chainsaw of proper size and sharpness, a wedge and a hammer or axe, the sawyer can make small pieces of a tree in short order. It’s not necessary to have debris pullers holding limbs or clearing areas around the worksite while the chainsaw operator is cutting. A six foot chainsaw operator with a 20” saw can fall and cut someone eleven feet away in the work area. Give adequate time and distance in the work area.

It’s just too much for a chainsaw operator to have to concentrate on pressures, binds, rolls and movements while having to constantly be monitoring people and machines in the area.

Brush Pullers / Swampers
The Puller’s and Swamper’s are hard workers in the operation of clean up. These tasks are so important to moving the smaller material from the site to the staging area, chipper or haul truck. Their efficiency relies on the chainsaw operator to size the material properly and reduce the weight factors for easy handling. These workers are not there to hold material for the saw operator nor are they assistance for releasing stuck saws. Their function is cleaning up smaller material, what they do best!

We’ve outlined the players now what should the play plan look like?
The site layout is going to be the changing factor or variable at every storm site. Some sites will be so small the larger equipment and chipper will be limited in ideal location or utility. Some storm debris will be small and scattered, some will be large trees and stacked in multiple piles. Some will be combinations of… 

Sometimes a tractor or skid steer can be unloaded and open the area or pull the trees off the trail or roadway and the chainsaw operations can take place at another time. 

Often the chainsaw operations must section the trees for the equipment to move them because of area logistics and or too much weight and length.

Sometimes pullers can simply drag the debris from the site to a staging area without large equipment or chainsaw operations.

Timing the Phases
Slowing down or Cooling down the planned work at a storm site can mean more efficiency and productivity. How can we do this in the situation where there  are multiple trees or a large tree? Massive debris piles?

The objective is to clean up the mess and or get the road open for traffic or access. To time the process in our planning is the way to achieve maximum productivity without sacrificing safety. Timing doesn’t mean to stop watch the process, although that may be a great way to fine tune the process eventually, it simply means to separate the players to allow them to do their individual tasks efficiently and safely.

Separation may be two minutes, half a tree, it may be two trees or it may even mean two days. 

Ideal Plan
If everything is ideal it would render something like this in planning. It is imperative to maximize this plan to train the players adequately. Shoddy equipment operations and or maintenance will prove to break down the efficiency of the plan.

1. An equipment operator, chainsaw operator and a puller team would approach the storm debris site and thoroughly assess the area. First for safety and hazards. This may be the job of one experienced supervisor or safety leader/planner  that has extensive knowledge of the teams work skills and equipment. Any power line situations are addressed by electric authorities before entering work. 

2. Equipment would be staged and an approach plan should be laid out. This may be solely a chainsaw, haul truck and or chipper. May be the large equipment first.

3. Chainsaw operator’s then select the starting points taking in to consideration the ability of the pullers, chipper and haul size capabilities. They begin the cutting and limbing process maximizing the knowledge of proper length and weight considerations. Only one saw per work zone until the work is stabilized. Roll over capabilities are neutralized. It is Preferred to work from the butt to tip of the tree to lower higher limbs and stay clear of limb debris. This always leaves an open retreat if logs or limbs roll or shift.

4. Once the chainsaw operations have created distance from the designated staging area and or chipper, the pullers can commence to move the limbs and smaller logs to the planned areas or equipment. 

5. The larger logs and debris can then be moved by the skid steer and backhoe to the appropriate staging area or haul equipment. Steps 4 and 5 may be reversed according to the site and debris location. 

It looks busy when everyone is standing or moving around the saw operator but having everyone doing what they are designed to do without waiting increases the safety, productivity and gets the job done much quicker.

Slow down and safely speed up your clean up operations!

For more information on Storm Sawing Programs from Forest Applications Training, Inc. Contact  770-543-9862   Visit our website