Professional tree planters in Canada will tell you that our job is all about keeping the client happy. If the client wants six trees in a plot we give them sixes. If they want cedar around the rotten fir we manage our bag-up to do so. If they want pine planted in mineral soil and organic soil for the spruce we plant that way. If they want a certain percentage of larch in a block we make sure we get the right amount of bundles. If they want us to wear hardhats, get headaches and suffer from heat exhaustion, we…just go along with it?
I’m sure our employers, clients and WCB don’t want us to work in discomfort, and I am sure they only have the best intentions for our safety in their minds, but perhaps they are not aware of the negative impacts of wearing a hard hat while planting trees? And besides, is there really ANY scientific reason for making us wear hard hats in the first place?
When asked about the rationale for the use of hard hats on the block the answers I’ve got are: WCB requires it because of the concern of debris falling on tree planter heads, or high visibility, or my least favorite one “That’s what our clients want, and since they’re paying us, we need to focus on what they want.”
Where’s the Data?
The following information from “Reducing the Risk of Injuries in Tree-Planters” by Ariel-Ann Lyons Human Kinetics Undergraduate Thesis for the University of British Columbia shows…
Most to Least Common Injury Locations
1. Fingers; 2. Wrist; 3. Elbow; 4. Back; 5. Knee; 6. Toes; 7. Ankle; 8. Eye; 9. Shoulder; 10. Stomach, 11. Forearm; and 12. Feet.
Head injuries did not make the list. Take a look at the rest of her study or any other source of these kinds of studies. Heck, ask any flesh and blood tree planter! Head injuries just don’t happen.
From the ergonomic point of view, hardhats are the wrong tool for the job; they are unnecessary and unsuitable for tree planting because they add stress to the body. Our necessity to assume awkward posturing in such dynamic environments as cut blocks force us to wear a tighter head band than one normally would so the hardhat does not fall off when moving through the brush or planting thousands of trees.
Heat dissipation is a very important aspect of working productively and safely and hardhats capture heat contributing to dehydration, headaches, hyperthermia and heat exhaustion.
These daily negative aspects and new hazards that hardhats bring to the job greatly outweigh the possibility of falling debris; or the need for high visibility when there are alternatives. And just because we are paid by someone is an unacceptable reason and a cause of serious distress for production planters who are concerned about our health, our well-being, safety and production. We are being paid to do a good job; they are not paying us to get hurt or to be uncomfortable.
So, is anyone out there in the industry willing to either: a) Accept the fact that hardhats are not suitable for treeplanters, or b) Conduct a study on treeplanter hardhat use and implications? Maybe this would be a good job for the WSCA and FISA to tackle with their new $250,000.00 budget. WCB? FERIC? Anyone?