Update on logging safety research at SWAC


In the January and April 2013 issues of the Louisiana Logger, I wrote about some of the research concerning logger safety conducted by the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention, and Education, headquartered at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. For short, they call themselves the Southwest Ag Center or SWAC. The center’s work covers five states — Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. I thought I would give an update on their work in this article.

Dr. Dave Douphrate conducted a survey of loggers in western Louisiana back in 2013 to try to determine the extent of muscular-skeletal (repetitive stress) injuries in loggers. An earlier study in Norway found that 80 percent of cut-to-length machine operators suffered from neck and shoulder pain, so we were wondering how bad the problem might be here.

Basically, we are talking about aches and pains caused by operating a piece of equipment day in and day out.

Dr. Douphrate had workers from a dozen logging operations fill in questionnaires and found that about 60 percent of loggers in western Louisiana and East Texas have lower back pains, generally caused by performing tasks over and over, or by bending/twisting the back in awkward positions. Skidder operators are especially susceptible to lower back pains. Awkward or cramped positions while operating equipment also caused a lot of pains and aches in the legs and feet.

Currently, Dr. Douphrate is having loggers record their daily activities and any associated pains, in hopes of getting a better understanding of how these pains develop. Some loggers are also wearing vibration meters to get an idea of how vibrations and jolts affect a logger’s health. He needs more loggers participating in order to get scientifically sound data, so contact me if you are interested.

For the past 20 years, we have been collecting our own logging accident data in Louisiana. Lately, accidents involving truck drivers have been the most problematic, including highway accidents.

Now, Dr. Eva Shipp is evaluating log truck crash data from the five states’ highway accident databases. It turns out that Louisiana has the best crash records, so she started by concentrating on Louisiana.

So far, she has found 361 crashes in Louisiana (2010-2015) involving log trucks. Her preliminary conclusions are that we need to do a better job of driver training to improve crash avoidance skills and careless driving, seat belt use, and securing loads.

Worker safety in other types of forestry work is also being researched. Dr. Vanessa Casanova has started researching tree planters and non-timber forest workers (pine straw, ginseng, specialty woods, floral greens, etc.). These workers are often migrant and difficult to find. Still other researchers are working on safety in other aspects of agriculture.

If you are interested in learning more about the research mentioned here, the folks at SWAG just published an issue in the scientific journal, Journal of Agromedicine (2019, Issue 2 - https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/wagr20/24/2?nav=tocList). Their website is www.uthct.edu/swagc-overview.

(C.F. “Niels” de Hoop is an Associate Professor at the Louisiana Forest Products Development Center, School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, LSU AgCenter. Contact: cdehoop@lsu.edu; 225-578-4242.)

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