On previous site visits, several people have asked me if I knew much about the new Safe Forestry App which has been designed by Calum Duffy of Duffy Skylining and Stephen Hailes of H&W Training and developed by Nighthawk Software.
While I have heard bits and pieces, it wasn’t until I spoke to Calum about where the app is presently and the ideas he and Stephen have for developing it further that I realised just what an impact this App could have on our industry. All too often new measures are introduced by people who have never done the work professionally and haven’t consulted those that such changes will affect.
These measures often hinder workers and are more favourable to the works manager or forest owner. Talking to professionals and receiving constructive feedback would be beneficial for everyone in the long run, and this is exactly what Calum and Stephen have done with their App, developed for them by Nighthawk Software.
This system will protect and keep workers safe while improving information and data for the works manager. It is an ingenious, easy to understand and simple to navigate App that holds vital information regarding both the work-site and the personnel present. Everyone, including delivery drivers and timber hauliers, needs to sign in prior to entering the work-site.
When doing so they have to acknowledge that they have read the risk assessment and will follow the site safety rules. They then log out upon leaving the site, which means there is a data log of all personnel, deliveries and timber removed from site.
The App logs previous work-sites of all operators and ensure no one is working on harvesting sites beyond their level of skill or competence. It will record chainsaw skill levels, starting at level 1 and increasing to level 4 with advanced techniques. Each stage is audited by a skilled operator and sufficient hours must be logged before it is possible to progress to the next stage.
This system is recognised by FISA, HSE, FCA, and most forest owners. You cannot teach experience – it is learned over time. This is an exciting breakthrough. The introduction of technology that helps to keep operators safe and protects them by proving their skill levels, certifications and experience is some of the best news I have heard in a long time. Risk assessments can be updated regularly, informing all personnel of any new hazards which might have been overlooked at the commencement of work or caused by adverse weather. For management it is a clear way of over viewing the site, from it becoming active on sign in, to inactive on sign out. Being able to view in real-time submissions any issues on site and have access to chainsaw logbook entries, on site audits and overall site activities is a game changer for companies as well as being able to prove that competent operators are on site.
“It is a source of information for us” said Bruce Dick, Commercial Manager of Dick Brothers Forestry Ltd “we can see from the office if fuel and other deliveries have been made and if engineers are attending to breakdowns. From my point of view it gives us piece of mind as we have squads working on contracts all over Scotland and the app lets us know that everyone has left site safely. It lets us log the level of competency of all of our operators and allows us to assess the skill levels of any new employees.
This way we can make sure that operators are working within their capabilities. The app stores each individual user’s certificates so there should be no need to be emailing copies to forest districts and management companies.
All operators have the risk assessment with them at all times and for chainsaw operators going from site to site this means that they don’t have to carry individual risk assessments for every site they attend. I think the Safe Forestry App is technology which will be massively beneficial to everyone in forestry,” Bruce continues, “I can’t see any downfalls to the app and we will certainly be using it within our company.”
The App works with or without reception, if there is no reception the forms can still be filled in and as soon as signal is found then it uploads all forms. All operators are encouraged to take the ‘toolbox talk’. This involves everyone getting together in the morning to discuss the works schedule and is a brilliant time for addressing any issues or sharing information regarding the work-site. All information is then logged into the App. I have seen this approach implemented by a large mulching manufacturing company in Spain. The team leaders speak to all their workers at the end of the shift to gather feedback on any problems that occurred or improvements that were implemented.
The following morning, 30 minutes prior to the workday starting, the team leaders meet and discuss those problems and to find out if they could have been avoided or better dealt with and to share better working practices within the teams.
This company have been using this system for almost ten years and have found it has increased production and improved their safety record. It is good to see so many companies and organisations embracing and endorsing the Safe Forestry App; Scottish Woodlands, FISA, James Jones, HSE, FCA, Pontrilas Timber, WorksafeBC, Munro Sawmills, Tilhill, Forest and Land Scotland, Euroforest, Forest Machine Magazine, H&W Training, and Duffy Skylining.
“This is a very good system where you are risk assessing yourself continuously” said Jim Laidlaw a self employed skyline and chainsaw operator.
“Any actions undertaken in normal working practices can be justified and backed up by photographic evidence and a method statement. For new people entering the industry it means that they will be serving proper apprenticeships again and audited at each stage prior to progressing to the next level. Other benefits are that you know exactly who is on site at any given time, if you have phone or mobile data reception you will be alerted to the fact that someone has entered or left site. You can still upload information to the app where there is no phone reception and it will update automatically as soon as a signal is found. It is far more than just an App, it is a personal log book which provides proof of your level of experience.”
I have heard enough about Calum to know that he is a highly respected and experienced contractor running two successful skyline squads. He is a second generation forestry contractor with 30 years’ hands-on experience. Calum has been involved in trials trials with the Forestry Commission’s technical department exploring new systems and techniques for working on steep sites.
In addition to his own forestry business, he is an advocate for improving safety and working conditions in the forest; he chairs the FISA chainsaw working group and is a member of both the FCA policy committee and the FISA Covid-19 working group.
How did the idea for the App based system come about?
“In February 2019 I had an HSE site visit and the ability to prove the competence of my operators was questioned; although I did have measures in place, they were not sufficient or structured. I had basic chainsaw logbooks, day dairies and qualifications. This was more than the industry provided me with but it was not sufficient in the eyes of HSE. As an employer I was not meeting my obligations – I was basically non-compliant.
This challenge was issued to me personally and I took this on board and started working on a better system. I made contact with WorksafeBC and held two conference calls and several emails on how they prove competence, log the information, and supervise on-site operations.
They helped massively as I started restructuring and building a system, and I’m still in contact with them. I engaged with fellow industry professional Stephen Hailes of H&W training. Together we worked on the supporting documentation for the level system, and Stephen’s background in training was a big help to getting the documents correct and applicable.
We decided to call the system ‘Safe Forestry’. I started sharing information with my FISA chainsaw working group to get feedback from the members on various topics and this proved helpful given the depth of knowledge within the group. Having received positive feedback on the concept, we were referred to a local software development company, Nighthawk Software, by one of our business contacts who were working with another company on a similar project.
We then got it to a point where we were ready to start trialling the system in the field. We engaged FLS as landowners and they verified the system and its implementation, and we engaged two merchants – Tilhill and Munro’s harvesting – who also verified the system and brought in the HSE as an overview and to guide us through the process. HSE engaged heavily with us which was refreshing and all parties worked well together.
The first site became active at the beginning of August 2019 and the second one during the middle of August 2019. Both teams are currently active and producing a raft of information daily for everyone to see, and management has access to this information as well. All site operatives see the submissions relevant to their site, and managers see all site submissions.
We have had a good level of feedback, allowing us to change the system as we build it in line with legislation and operational efficiency. We have 24 people field testing the app for us in different aspects of forestry work providing proof of ongoing operator competence. From one site anything from 70-90 individual weekly submissions comes in using the different forms available.
All submissions have a RED/AMBER/GREEN status applied to them so site operatives and management can see the level of risk involved and decide what action is required. Site notifications can be sent to multiple users – site operatives, management and contractors. In the near future we hope to be able to offer this system to contractors and management alike and the app will help to facilitate competence logging.
This system recently won a five year, £4.2 million FLS contract, scoring 100% in the H&S part of the procurement process. It is a recognised good system of work and has been described as ‘a technical solution to a technical question.”
Calum has been conducting trials with a cross section of people that the app is aimed at.
Neil McKune a forestry contractor said
“This is a very good and useful App which holds all the important information regarding individual work sites. Operators log books, certificates, risk assessments are all held within the App and this keeps everyone on site compliant and beyond reproach. It is very easy and straightforward to use with a common sense approach and definitely a step in the right direction for the industry. I have been trialling it since last year and I am very pleased with the results so far.”
Ernie Weir, Works Supervisor at Dick Brothers Forestry Ltd, is 100% behind the Safe Forestry App and believes it will benefit everyone who uses it.
“It is a great source of crucial information which will increase operator’s awareness of any hazards on site” he said, “It is a live risk assessment which is able to assess any new hazards and relevant information on a daily basis. It records maintenance schedules, proving to manufacturers that regular maintenance has been carried out and make warranty claims easier to process.
The App is easy to use, straightforward to navigate and time efficient; Calum and Stephen have certainly done their research when designing it and put a tremendous amount of work into it.
I work with our Skyline squad quite a lot and the App reassures me that any chainsaw operators and choker men we send on to the hill are highly experienced and qualified professionals who have a record of working on challenging sites.
It is great back up for operators and the company they work for as everything can be logged and is available for all to see. I believe the App will catch on and will benefit everyone who uses it.”
Joe McKnight, a timber harvesting contractor from Dumfries and Galloway had nothing but praise for the app. “The App is brilliant and it will transform our industry into the 21st Century. I have found that it makes me think more about what you are doing at work and encourages me to take a pro active approach.
It is fantastic what has been achieved and it has been developed by listening to the people who it is aimed at. Calum and Stephen have to be admired for the amount of work they have put in and the patience it must have taken to get to this point.
It is great for assessing the skill levels of new employees as I have proof of what level of skills they have, previous experience and whether they have all the relevant certification. I would have no
reservations about using this app within my company.”
The App Features:
Each operator has their own app and is asked to create a personal profile, including qualifications, historic experience, refresher training, and first aid certificates. They are then asked what fields they work in, i.e. chainsaw, harvester, forwarder, skyline, skidder, choking, excavator, haulage, field services, and so on.
The app will allocate the forms the individual will need to use. The information within the profile can be shared with anyone who requests it but it remains that individual’s proof of competence and their personal information. Every form that the person submits stays with the person and creates a data log of ongoing competence.
Any training or updates they receive within Safe Forestry or other training can be uploaded to the profile at any point, so it will essentially act as an ongoing CV.
Covid-19 status form: All site visitors fill out this simple form on their status before entering site. Guidance is given within the form if symptomatic and an anonymous alert is sent to any other site users to ensure they are aware of possible contact. All users who have been potentially exposed to covid-19 will receive an alert from the app.
Sign in: using a QR code with all emergency details and site specific risk assessment. All operatives sign in either individually or together depending on how they arrive. The site is now active for all to see.
Toolbox talk: held daily with all operatives present and involves a description of the day’s work, signed by all operatives and photographed, signed and submitted by the toolbox talk holder. All operatives are encouraged to take the toolbox talk, another small element of the competence of individuals.
Daily task specific risk assessment: from the toolbox talk every operative opens a daily risk assessment relative to their specific task, fills it out accordingly, and signs and submits. These are editable throughout the day if a task changes. Several other forms exist for operators to use including:
Chainsaw technician logbook: everyone operating a chainsaw fills this out documenting their experience –we do this weekly – through comments and pictures. This is signed off by the site safety coordinator. The accumulated hours explain what chainsaw they’ve used, the type of terrain, felling aids used, the level of operator they are, and the maintenance that has been carried out.
Chainsaw operator check: The app will have an option on the system where chainsaw operators can have a check in every hour. If the check in is not done it will sent alerts to all operators on the site.
Choker man logbook: this documents the week’s chokering activities including equipment used and terrain worked. This is signed off by the site safety coordinator.
Machine operator logbooks: the logbooks cover all machinery working onsite and are proof of ongoing operator competence.
Chainsaw work planning: this logs any chainsaw related operations on a coupe. Certain hazards are pinpointed and photographic evidence is passed on to chainsaw operators. Environmental checklist: operators have the ability to log, through pictures, any action they have taken to diffuse pollution.
Site hazard forms: any hazards that crop up or are not noticed at planning stage can be logged.
Site survey: operatives can survey the area to be worked and log any issues through pictures, i.e. soft ground, steep ground, felling hazards, public access, etc.
Safety occurrence form: this form is used for any safety issues which have occurred on site. It provides the ability to log any near misses through pictures, allowing lessons to be learnt and hopefully passing on valuable experiences to others.
NPTC FMO training record: this gives trainees the ability to log their training through pictures and comments, verified by the supervising person and digitally signed off.
Forestry machine maintenance form: All maintenance carried out on machines can be logged through pictures and comments, signed and submitted by operator or field mechanics.
Advanced felling techniques:
Limb locked and pushing trees: These techniques have a ratified method statement and a system of implementation that gives the operatives a clear way to perform these techniques and specifies when they are applicable. Operators MUST be audited in these techniques before being allowed to perform them. They must also have the app system to be able to log these techniques and access the relevant risk assessment and method statements. Only higher level operators will have access to these techniques. They are logged through pictures and comments for all to see.
Audit system: This is a robust system which provides a clear output. This audit is derived from the WorksafeBC auditing process but has been adapted to fit forestry legislation and techniques. It gives a level 1-4 process and an overall picture of an operator’s competency level. It can be used for teaching corrective actions to work on with a clear path to progress up the levels if desirable. The auditors are currently active, time served chainsaw operators.
Site sign out: All operative sign out (via a QR code), leaving the site inactive so management know it is clear. This system is more than a chainsaw competency system; it’s a system to log activities in real time with full management access to all site specific submissions.
A separate database for chainsaw operators which monitors logbook entries and ongoing competence can be accessed by auditors at all times. Chainsaw operators can now log their competence and share this information with contractors, management, etc.
The form builder can be customised to the needs of all companies using the app. I think Calum and Stephen are to be commended for the time and effort they have put into designing and developing this App that has really been driven from the ground up.
The form builder can be customised to the needs of all companies using the app.
The likes of reports that can be produced overview of man hours spent on a site to number of safety occurrences per week, month or year. On Tuesday 13th May the app had over 20 Covid 19 Status reports on five different sites throughout Scotland.
The evidence is there that proves it can trace site activities from field mechanics, machine operators, hauliers and forestry managers, everyone is covered.
The App although up and running is undergoing final checks and should be available by May.
Launch price will be £10 per month per user and some free trials will be available
For more information SafeForestry
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