Tree spikes pose serious threat to forestry workers
Health & Safety Violence in the Workplace
KAMLOOPS, B.C. (Canadian OH&S News)
KAMLOOPS, B.C. (Canadian OH&S News)
The identity of the perpetrators of a dangerous and potentially deadly logging protest in the forests near Kamloops, B.C., has stumped the RCMP and the province’s Ministry of Forests.
In June, workers came across hand-written cardboard signs warning them that a number of trees in the Roche Lake area had been spiked with nails of various sizes in an effort to keep them from falling the trees. But the steel nails, buried deep into the trees, create a big hazard for workers.
“It can be pretty destructive,” said Patrick Tobin, Ministry of Forests regional compliance manager for the Thompson-Okanagan region.
“The guys on the ground who are working with the chainsaws around these trees, there’s the possibility that striking a hard object like a spike could cause the chain to fly off and do some damage to them.”
Spiked trees also pose a risk to any employee working in the processing mill as well, Tobin explained, as the spikes can cause the high-speed saw blades to explode and shower the area with shrapnel.
It is not an incident the logging companies take very lightly.
“We had an individual or a group of individuals that conducted vigilante activities and so we were very concerned about not only the fibre that was spiked but the risk of what some of these folks might do to some of the logging equipment that was up there, so our security measures went up on that front,” said Ian Fillinger, general manager of the Adams Lake and coastal manufacturing operations for Interfor.
The company put cameras up and the logging contractor had its employees check on the site during off-hours to ensure nothing was being vandalized, he said.
If the signs warning workers of the spikes were not posted, Tobin said, the fallers probably would not have noticed the nails driven into the trees.
“There’re literally millions of trees being cut every year. It would be impossible to scan every one. If you’re working up close and personal with a hand faller you might pick them up, but if you’re on a machine, it’s very unlikely,” he said.
Fine, jail time are possible punishments
The ministry’s investigation is at a stalemate, Tobin added, noting that it does not make sense to him why the area was targeted.
“There were no protests or issues going on that would raise an ideology forward for debate or conversation. If someone’s going to protest something, it’s usually something of significance that they want to make a stand on,” he said.
The activity carries the threat of a $500,000 fine and up to two years in jail under the Forest and Ranges Practices Act.
“People sometimes do strange things,” opined Interfor vice-president and chief forester Rick Slaco.
There is a rock climbing group nearby, Slaco added, but said the two organizations have had a good relationship.
The group, Climb Kamloops, put up an advisory on its website asking anyone with information on the spiking to contact the government, as well as commending the loggers on maintaining the look of the forests near their climbing area.
Thankfully, so far the tree spiking has been an isolated incident and, as a form of protest, is exceedingly rare.
“There’re always trees with some type of spike or nail that may have been put up by a rancher or farmer a number of years ago for a fence or something like that, but for somebody to go out and target an area we were operating in, that’s not very common,” said Fillinger.