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Emergency drills are not just about racing a stopwatch and testing equipment. They involve developing skills, building confidence, finding new ways to improve emergency systems, and mitigating potential trauma with a calm and orderly response. BC Timber Sales produced this instructional video that helps demonstrate how some of these goals can be achieved and the benefits of conducting drills with your crew.

This video illustrates how to carry out an effective injured worker evacuation drill and how it relates to a good Emergency Response Plan (ERP).

The physical environment of forestry sites poses challenges to moving injured workers, and the isolation of most worksites means that first aid and rescue personnel must have effective plans in place if they are to transport critically injured patients to medical aid within the “golden hour,” after which survival rates can steeply decline.

Section 32.2 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires employers to provide training and conduct simulated evacuation or rescue drills appropriate to the types of situations that could occur in the workplace. For silviculture worksites, this can include extracting workers from clear-cuts with steep slopes or harvesting debris, effective use of emergency response vehicles, and water-rescue exercises among crews that regularly use boats to get to work.

For seasonal operations such as tree planting camps, emergency drills should be conducted as early in the year as possible to ensure all workers are prepared to assist in a rescue from day one. All workers should be made familiar with the types of tasks and maneuvers they may be asked to perform if serving as assistants to the first aid attendants. During first aid training courses, helper tasks like c-spine support and the sternal clamp are typically performed by other students. However, in the field, these tasks may be assigned to anyone and should be demonstrated as part of the drill, to ensure the first aid attendant receives fast and effective support when moving patients, assisting with breathing, controlling bleeding, and other tasks.

This emergency drill handbook is available to help identify appropriate practice scenarios and direct first aid and supervisor personnel to get the best results from their drills.

Effective Emergency Drills For Forestry Operators
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A key consideration in emergency drills is that the process is more important than the outcome. In other words, identifying mistakes or discovering problems in emergency drills is one of the best possible learning outcomes, because it helps prevent these problems from occurring in a real-life situation. It is far better to learn that your oxygen tanks are empty or there are gaps in your communication systems during a drill than it is when you are trying to get a suffering co-worker to the hospital.

Emergency drills are also important team-building exercises that help establish functional and positive lines of communication among workers. Early in my forestry career, I was called upon to act as the lead first aid attendant in responding to a seriously injured worker with a head injury and suspected fractures. At the time, I was among the more junior employees in the company, had never been put in a position to direct other workers, and had limited experience with the company equipment. This created challenges as my authority was not immediately recognized by other workers, and extra time was needed to establish a chain of command, properly instruct my helpers, and fit the spine board to the helicopter. Although we met our objectives that day and our rescue was a success, the additional stress caused by the unforeseen obstacles strained relationships among the crew and made the experience unpleasant for the patient.

A few years later, after implementing a thorough emergency drill program with the same crew, we had faced another emergency with a worker struck by a vehicle. In this case, we were able to simply execute our tasks instead of needing to explain and adjust, and we had the patient comfortably packaged for transport, surrounded by reassurance, and enjoyed a round of high-fives when we returned to camp with our injured co-worker promptly treated and our faith in each others’ support affirmed.

More Resources

Video Credit


Preparing for the Unexpected: The Importance of Emergency Drills in Forestry

Successful rescue and evacuation of injured workers in forestry worksites require strong teamwork and careful preparation.

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