Occupational Research Agenda for Northwest Forestlands


THIS FINAL CATEGORY addresses four areas that are necessary for occupational health and safety research to reduce worker injuries and illnesses. Industry and policy changes rely on novel methods to identify current hazards, control recognized hazards, and identify and prevent the adverse consequences of emerging hazards. Hazard controls that are practical for the industry can dramatically reduce injury and illness. Evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of interventions provide information to shape improved programs, regulations, and technologies. The ability to provide accurate and timely health care and emergency aid plays a vital role in the wellness of workers and the prevention of further harm. Finally, surveillance programs are a cornerstone of public health practice in areas such as infectious disease control, but have yet to be systematically established for injuries and disease related to forestry. Basic demographic, incidence, and prevalence data are needed to inform research and intervention programs.


A variety of engineering, administrative, and worker protection techniques can be used to manage health and safety hazards. These may include design changes to equipment, modifications to training efforts, or the design and proper use of personal protective equipment. Important concerns in Northwest forestland work include equipment modifications, and improved techniques for selective cutting, and the establishment of site-specific falling techniques. Basic and applied research is needed to identify, evaluate, and develop both health- and cost-effective control strategies for specific hazards, and to ensure their wide dissemination in the forestry community.

[NIOSH NORA: Control Technology and Personal Protective Equipment]


Workplace health and safety hazards are normally mitigated by a hierarchy of control techniques, with engineering controls as the most preferred method, followed by administrative controls, and personal protection employed as a last resort. Engineering controls offer an opportunity to design a hazard out of the production process. The replacement of a hazardous product, for example, can reduce risk for workers across an entire industry. Technologies that reduce equipment noise or minimize repetitive motion can have an immediate effect on illness rates. Guard devices on equipment can prevent injuries and save lives. Administrative controls focus on proper management of the workplace. For instance, some of the project participants felt that the use of site-specific falling techniques could prevent many serious injuries. Finally, personal protective equipment can be an important strategy for reducing exposures when engineering and administrative methods are not practical. The use of protective equipment, such as earplugs, caps, and muffs, can be an effective means for reducing noise exposure, for example, but any personal protection program must include extensive initial training, periodic retraining, continuous oversight, and regular maintenance.


  • Investigate new methods and technologies to control noise and improve hearing protection
  • Develop new logging techniques to mitigate selective logging hazards
  • Establish site-specific falling techniques
  • Generate new techniques for falling with less potential for injury
  • Design new shoe tread for all weather conditions and improve existing footwear
  • Develop new techniques to identify logs 52
  • Conduct preventative research on handling chain saws incorporating body mechanics, use, etc.
  • Identify how to adjust workload to avoid the detrimental effect of fatigue on safety
  • Modify saw design to include a fire-control device
  • Implement personal protective equipment training
  • Improve manufacturer guidelines for safe operation of equipment
  • Follow Swedish model with graded, multi-year training
  • Establish a formal certification and apprenticeship program
  • Conduct a continuous training, particularly on new equipment and changing technology
  • Translate materials into appropriate Spanish dialects
  • Scale information to appropriate literacy levels, particularly for non-English speaking workers
  • Individualize site-specific training in the field
  • Implement work conditioning programs for new workers or those entering new jobs involving strenuous work

Barbara PLO, ed. Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene. Chicago, IL: National Safety Council, 1988.

Duncan JR, Wilkinson RH, Purschwitz MA, Murphy DJ, Anderson KC, Baker LD. Agricultural Safety and Health for Engineers. St. Joseph: American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 1994.

Joint FAO/ECE/ILO Committee on Forest Technology, Management and Training. Seminar on Clothing and Safety Equipment in Forestry Proceedings. Kuopio, Finland (June 27–July 1, 1994).

Rummer, B. Engineering Solutions for Logging Safety. American Society of Agricultural Engineers Winter Meeting, Paper No. 937526. St. Joseph: American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 1993.

American Society of Agriculture Engineers homepage. http://asabe.org/.


Various health and safety interventions can prevent workplace illnesses and injury. Interventions can include control technologies, guidelines and regulations, worker participation programs, and training. Interventions in current use can be validated or improved through research that assesses their effectiveness. Evaluations can lead to improved control technologies, government regulations, enforcement procedures, and educational methods.

[NIOSH NORA: Intervention Effectiveness Research]


Changes are often introduced into production with the intent of preventing or reducing illness and injury. Yet in many cases, the effectiveness of these changes remains unknown. Evaluation of interventions is a relatively new area of research in occupational health and safety. Such investigations can be expensive, and may seem unnecessary, particularly in cases where the intervention is relatively straightforward. Yet, there can be several intervention options, and their relative impact is an open question. Project participants identified training programs and hazard control technologies as priority areas for evaluation research.

  • Evaluate and adapt European solutions
  • Identify good handling techniques for chain saws
  • Evaluate effectiveness of behavior-based and other forms of safety training
  • Determine if an increase in first aid training and wilderness first aid training improve injury outcomes
  • Determine if safety practices are influenced by training
  • Evaluate hazard reductions from mechanical harvesting techniques

Cohen A, Colligan M. Assessing Occupational Safety and Health Training: A Literature Review. DHHS 98-145. Cincinnati, OH: NIOSH, 1998.

Goldenhar LM, Schulte PA. Intervention Research in Occupational Health and Safety. J Occup Med 36(7):763-775 (1994).

Haddix AC, Teautsch SM, Schaffer PA, Dunet DO, eds. Prevention Effectiveness: A Guide to Decision Analysis and Economic Evaluation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996.

NIOSH. A Model for Research on Training Effectiveness. DHHS 99-142. Cincinnati, OH: NIOSH, 1999.

Tinker TL, Silberberg PG. An Evaluation Primer on Health Risk Communication Programs and Outcomes. Washington DC: Department of Health and Human Services, 1997.


Quality health care and timely emergency aid are essential for the well-being of workers, including loggers and foresters. Obtaining emergency aid and evacuation for acute injuries can be a significant challenge given the mountainous and rural forestlands in the Northwest. Many diseases and injuries can be caused by a combination of workplace and non-workplace exposures combined with preexisting conditions, so accurate diagnosis depends on rural health care professionals’ understanding of workplace hazards.



Forestlands in the Northwest encompass large areas with relatively sparse populations. Emergency services in many regions are in great demand, and cannot always provide assistance fast enough for life-threatening situations, especially those in remote locations. Evacuation for acute injuries in the mountainous and rural forestlands in the Northwest is particularly problematic. Research can assist in identifying gaps in service and developing or expanding new services.

Also, many diseases and injuries can be caused by a combination of workplace and non-workplace exposures, combined with preexisting conditions. Research is needed to develop new methods of diagnosis, and to link diagnoses with specific workplace exposures. Rural health care professionals need further training in this area and in the identification and treatment of the diseases and injuries that affect Northwest loggers and foresters. One participant recommended further involvement by the medical community. He noted that health care professionals need to “...understand job descriptions [and that] the medical community needs to ask the right questions and workers need to be able to describe [the incident]. Care providers need to be able to speak the same language.”

  • Design prospective studies to determine which injuries would involve rural physicians, clinics, and hospitals
  • Develop new medical care options
  • Conduct response-time surveys to determine the effectiveness of emergency services on a regional basis
  • Offer education to rural health care professionals on job tasks and language of logging 56
  • Conduct medical community training on workers' compensation system
  • Increase first aid and other emergency procedure training
  • Train clinicians, physicians, and nurses on noise-induced hearing loss, including how to refer patients for hearing tests

Schuman SH, Simpson WM. Ag-Med: The Rural Practitioner's Guide to Agromedicine. American Academy of Family Physicians, 1997.

US EPA. Pesticides and National Strategies for Health Care Providers: Workshop Proceedings. Washington DC: Environmental Protection Agency, 1998.

The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems homepage: http://www.camts.org/.


Surveillance systems are essential for setting research priorities, as they provide answers to the questions, “who,” “what,” “why,” “where,” and “how.” The public health community relies on surveillance information to set research and prevention priorities, however gaps in many existing systems limit their usefulness. Surveillance systems in forestry need to be updated and expanded, and new methods for data collection and evaluation need to be developed. Creative efforts between the public and private sectors need to be initiated to develop effective systems.

[NIOSH NORA: Surveillance Research Methods]


Surveillance systems have been a central tool in public health. The ongoing collection of injury, morbidity, and mortality data facilitates the identification and prioritization of public health efforts. When based on common definitions, surveillance data can point to unusual patterns or trends and guide decisions regarding the prioritization and direction of follow-up epidemiological investigations. When possible, the ongoing, large-scale collection of risk factor and hazard information can provide valuable guidance for the design and evaluation of prevention programs. This requires that the surveillance system be based on standardized definitions of risk factors, hazards, injury, illness, and disease, and standardized and comprehensive methods of data collection. Some of the best surveillance systems in the forest industry are administered within corporations and agencies. These systems are independent and do not allow for easy comparison. Further, information on near-miss cases may suggest ways to prevent injuries and fatalities. New methods are needed to address the unique characteristics of surveillance systems that are administered by small businesses. Creative collaborative efforts of the public and private sectors need to be initiated to develop effective systems and to incorporate near-miss reporting in injury surveillance.

  • Develop systematic and timely reporting of data collection results
  • Develop a state-by-state study of the causes of serious injuries and fatalities
  • Create a reporting structure for near-misses and identify how many near-misses occur prior to an incident
  • Determine frequency, severity, and cost of incidents
  • Develop a system that will help target research and prevention priorities

Baker EL, ed. Surveillance in occupational health and safety. Am J Public Health 79 (Suppl): 9-63 (1989).

Greife A, Halperin W, Groce D, O’Brien D, Pedersen D, Myers J, et al. Hazard surveillance: its role in primary prevention of occupational disease and injury. Applied Occup Environ Hyg 10(9):737-742 (1995).

Halperin W, Baker EL, eds. Public Health Surveillance. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992.

Murphy DJ, Yoder AM. Census of fatal occupational injury in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry. J of Ag Safety and Health 1:55–66 (1998).

NRC. National Research Council Panel on Occupational Safety and Health Statistics: Counting Injuries and Illnesses in the Workplace Proposals for a Better System. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1987.

US CDC. Guidelines for Evaluating Surveillance Systems. MMWR 37 Suppl No. S-51. Atlanta: CDC, 1998.

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