By Paul MacDonald - Logging & Sawmilling Journal
Video cameras seem to be everywhere these days. With the development of small, rugged consumer cameras such as the GoPro, cameras can be mounted on the fenders of cars racing in NASCAR—or on your mountain bike.
And they are now being used in the forest industry, thanks to a new product from B.C. company, T-Mar Industries. It recently introduced a Grapple Camera that allows loggers to continue to operate on foggy days in poor visibility, and offers increased safety and productivity, virtually eliminating the need for spotting when using a grapple yarder. It offers faster grappling in blind spots and over long distances, and a bird’s eye view—in high def—of choker settings.
And it’s already proving its effectiveness with a B.C. coastal logging contractor, and forest company TimberWest. Developing a grapple camera was a good fit for T-Mar since it is a leader in cable logging with its Log Champ yarder lineup and its well-known hydraulic grapples.
Tyson Lambert, forestry sales and support with T-Mar, which is based in Campbell River, B.C., explained that they saw a need for the Grapple Cam in B.C. logging operations.
“But we knew that we would have to develop something specific for the industry—we could not just use GoPro cameras. We needed something way beyond that,” says Lambert. “A GoPro will survive anything a person can do, or maybe on a race car, but it won’t survive the rigging on a grapple yarder in British Columbia—not even close.”
Last year, they developed a prototype Grapple Cam, and started doing some testing at the T-Mar shop. “The camera worked fine on the prototype, but it wasn’t consistent—so if you stood between the camera and the receiver, the picture would cut out,” says Lambert. “So we started looking for more advanced camera and transmitter components.”
Lambert relates that it took some time to get there, but they now have a solid production Grapple Camera unit. Among its features is a rugged T1 steel housing that is CNC machined, a replaceable, scratch resistant Margard lens protector, a sealed electronics compartment with separate battery compartment, and a vibration/shock mounted electronics module. The battery run time is 12 hours, and its range in normal conditions is 1500 feet, with a range of 3,000 feet in direct line of sight. The Grapple Cam weighs 63 pounds.
Lambert emphasized that the system features HD digital video. “The operator is going to be looking at the monitor a good part of the day, and we wanted high def. Most of the security and machine cameras out there are standard definition video—which can be like watching something on an old tube-type TV. We did not want that.”
The camera uses a frequency which is good for going around and through obstacles—like trees. “And it doesn’t require any kind of exotic antenna,” explained Lambert. “You can just use a whip antenna.”
The first Grapple Cam unit went out in the field, for testing, last year, with Vancouver Island logging contractor, Fall River Logging. “The operator was really excited about getting it—he had seen grapple cameras used in New Zealand,” says Lambert.
And the concept proved itself from the get-go, even in field trials. “Normally, on foggy days, the logging crew would pack it in and go home. But they were able to log all day in the fog. That was something they weren’t able to do before.”
Early in the process, the realization just how tough the entire package would need to be was brought home, though, says Lambert. “We opened up the camera case, and literally poured the contents into a bucket. That was version one.”
The really encouraging part, he explained, was that the grapple yarder operator for Fall River Logging wanted to know how quickly they could have the Grapple Cam back—they wanted to get working again with it as soon as possible. “They were calling us every day, asking when they could get it back. They were hooked on the Grapple Cam.
“Like all new technologies, it wasn’t cheap to do, and there were times that we thought about stopping. But with our work, the Grapple Cam was getting better and better with each version. And we saw there was a lot of interest in what we were doing, and kind of knew that it would be successful if we were able to build it.
The first production Grapple Cam has been out with contractor, Fall River Logging of Courtenay, B.C., since late last year—and it has not had to come back to the shop once. “They’re logging with it every day,” says Lambert. Fall River is using the Grapple Cam in logging it does for TimberWest, on Vancouver Island.
Lambert says Fall River Logging has even developed some additional uses for the Grapple Cam. “They’re using it for yarding back and forth, but they wanted to get a look back up the hill, where the yarder was. So they laid the rigging across the ground, so the camera was pointing back, so they could see the hillside.”
But Lambert noted the number one advantage of the Grapple Cam is that it is able to virtually eliminate the hooktender having to come up and spot the grapple yarder. “Hooktenders can get injured—there have even been fatalities—doing the spotting. It’s a dangerous part of the job. They might be too close to the grapple load to get out of the way if something goes wrong.”
Added to that is the complication of relaying communications. “When you are operating blind on the yarder, such as on a steep hillside or around some rock, the hooktender usually talks the operator on to getting on the logs. So you can imagine what that is like—someone on the radio telling you to move forward, back, close up. It can be a slow process.
“The Grapple Cam allows the operator to see what they are doing, what is going on, where the logs are. It speeds up the process quite a bit.”
Reports from the field on the Grapple Cam have been positive. If there is a learning curve with the system, it is short.
“It doesn’t take too long for the operators to get used to it,” says Lambert. They kind of divide their time between looking out the windshield at where the rigging and grapple is at, and then watch the monitor when they are ready to pick up the logs.”
Adam Wunderlich, President of Fall River Logging, said the Grapple Cam is delivering benefits in both safety and operational efficiency. “It’s working great for us.” It’s allowed them to reduce the risks for hooktenders, and provides greater opportunities to work in lower light and fog conditions, he says. It required some patience and commitment from the grapple operator and crew, he added, especially at the beginning of the development process, but the end result has been well worth it. “It’s a really good example of collaboration between the supplier, the contractor and the landowner,” he says.
In addition, there should be some solid production gains, as well.
“It’s going to have a big impact,” said Racher. “We have lots of days on the Island when it is fogged right out, and you can’t see the wood. It means either the crew goes home, or you have someone spotting logs, with the hooktender talking the grapple operator on to the logs. But that can be a safety issue, because sometimes the hooktender might not be in the clear after doing the spotting.”
Being able to work more in the fog is a huge advance. “That alone is a big productivity win,” Racher said, that will be measured in more operating days per year.
“In situations with poor deflection, where the operator can’t see the wood, it’s going to mean a big increase in productivity. And on early shift in the fire season or in the middle of winter, when you have fewer daylight hours, it will make a difference—the camera can really see well in low light.” Use of the camera should result in less log breakage because the operator will have a better idea how best to grab the logs.
Now that the Grapple Cam is in production mode, it has generated a lot of interest in the wider industry. It had kind of an unofficial unveiling at the Truck Loggers convention this past January.
“The interest was instant at the Truck Loggers,” said Lambert. “Everyone who looked at the Grapple Cam wanted one. They had only two questions: Will that live in the bush, and when can I get one?”
And this spring, they were working on their production run of a dozen Grapple Cams—some of which are headed to New Zealand on their own, and some with T-Mar’s Log Champ yarders. New Zealand is a major market for the company’s yarders and grapples.
“It was interesting to see what they did with grapple cameras in New Zealand,” said Lambert. “But we decided to go our own way and designed ours differently, for the abuse that our rigging sees here in B.C. “
“We are pretty hard on our rigging here in B.C.,” says Lambert. “Our yarding settings are pretty tough. You can get the odd real nice one with good deflection and a big bowl—but a lot of the settings are straight up the hillside, with not much lift, and the grapple is going to be bumping into stuff along the way. And when you get there, you might have to fling the rigging a bit to get on the logs.
With efficiency improvements, everyone always looks at how much something costs, and how soon it will earn back its investment. With the Grapple Cam, the payback is, well, pretty darn quick, says Lambert.
“The first foggy day you’re able to work will pay for the camera a few times over. That is why logging contractors are so interested. On those foggy days, they would normally be getting zero production. It would be a situation of getting in the pick-up, and heading home.”
And if the Grapple Cam is able to prevent injuries, or save a life, then that, as the saying goes, is priceless.
“We might never know that, but it would be nice to think that the work we’ve done and the Grapple Cam will have done that, somewhere down the line,” says Lambert.
Edited from a longer version. View the full-length October 2016 Logging & Sawmilling Journal article here.
This Paul MacDonald story is courtesy of Logging and Sawmill Journal - October 2016.
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Failure to properly supervise work, bad planning, errors of judgment, poor communication, and pressure to clear landings quickly—any of these unsafe practices can result in workers being injured or killed. Employers, supervisors, equipment operators, and truck drivers—everyone is responsible for ensuring that forestry workers get home safely.
This video shows what can happen if safe work procedures are not followed when loading logs in a landing area. There are a number of breakdowns in equipment, procedures, and protocols that make this worksite unsafe: using a cell phone while driving, driver not wearing a seatbelt, swearing over a radio, broken horn, and exiting the cab without clearance. These unsafe practices represent learning opportunities that can be part of a post-viewing discussion.
This video contains language that may be offensive to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
This video is courtesy of the WorkSafeBC YouTube Channel.
According to a recent Canadian Health Measures Study, most Canadian adults spend their waking hours sitting down, and only engage in about four hours of light physical activity per day. Only 35 per cent manage to accumulate about 10,000 steps each day, the minimum number recommended to improve overall health.
Today, pedometers like Fitbit™ are interactive, meaning you can track and sync your activity from multiple devices. If you have an activity tracker, you're likely familiar with the 10,000 step goal. Here’s a look at what studies have shown:
Supported by online and mobile functions and features, most pedometers make counting steps easy and fun, and help keep you motivated. Nonetheless, unfavourable weather conditions can hamper your best intentions and make it more difficult to step, step, step. Here are some tips to help you navigate the winter weather and ensure you reach your 10,000 steps a day.
How to Reach 10,000 Steps Daily
This wellness article is courtesy of Shepell at workhealthlife.com.
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It is pretty clear to someone just hearing about SAFER that safety is the chief concern of this organization. The name, SAFER, stands for Safety Advisory Foundation for Education and Research. SAFER was created through broad negotiations between the IWA Canada (now United Steelworkers) and FIR on the coast and the IFLRA in the southern interior for the 1988-1991 master collective agreements in both regions.
SAFER continues to be jointly managed by USW, FIR, and the IFLRA where the industry and the union enjoy equal representation. Under the leadership of two Co-Chairs selected from the union and industry ranks, the SAFER Council coordinates its safety activities and initiatives under the guidance of eight safety advocate board members and six trustees.