Old-style logging was dangerous, often deadly business

Posted by Rumin Mann
August 22nd, 2011

A high rigger had a dangerous job, but no more dangerous than other jobs in the logging business in the first half of this century on the coast of B.C.

It was the high rigger’s job to cut the limbs off a strong, tall tree that was then rigged with pulleys and cables.  Driven by an engine called a donkey, the cables pulled in logs from the steep terrain typical on the coast.  The so-called spar trees were often well over 30 metres tall.

But all the jobs in the bush were dangerous, in part because there were few safety standards and trees in the old-growth forests were huge, say loggers familiar with the practices of the time.

WorkSafeBC historic figures show that in 1927, 73 loggers were killed on the job. In 1929, that number rose to 84.  That’s much higher than the number of deaths in the logging sector today. Last year, six workers were killed on the job, one of the lowest number of fatalities ever, according to figures from the B.C. Forest Safety Council.

Measures taken by the B.C. government and the industry mean companies are now required to obtain safety certification, and regulations are much stricter. In some cases, training is also mandatory.  “It’s a much safer business than it was,” said Angus Allison, who started logging nearly 50 years ago on the coast in Bella Bella.

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