Grapple yarding has been a mainstay on the BC Coast for decades. A grapple yarder pulls felled timber off steep slopes to a collection point. The grapple yarder is similar to the game at the fair where you try to grab a stuffed toy by controlling a grapple with a joystick.
Except, with a grapple yarder, the log may be 500 feet away or more from the Operator’s cab. In fact, the Operator may not even be able to see the log due to undulating slope or poor visibility. To help the grapple yard Operator spot and grab the logs, a person called a hook tender is located near the logs and communicates back to the Operator via a two-way radio.
Unfortunately, the hook tender can inadvertently end up in the line of fire through error or miscommunication. It was a solemn day at TimberWest in January 2015, when a hook tender was seriously injured when struck by a log. On the incident investigation, the question was asked – “How can this situation be avoided going forward?”
The Holy Grail in safety is to engineer the risk out of the job. In the present case, the simple solution was to put a camera on the grapple and a screen in the Operator’s cab. It is astounding that in 2015, not one grapple yarder on Vancouver Island had a camera to help sight the logs.
Enter T-MAR Industries. T-MAR has been proudly operating in Campbell River for over 30 years designing and manufacturing forestry equipment, including grapple yarders. They were already thinking about the possibility of placing a camera on the grapple. TimberWest and T-MAR joined forces – TimberWest agreed to support T-MAR’s development costs, and soon after an initial order for eight cameras was placed to underpin the business case.
”We are very pleased to work with forward-thinking local companies like T-MAR to improve safety and productivity outcomes,” says Jeff Zweig, President and CEO of TimberWest. “T-MAR is working hard to innovate with its in-house engineering team. British Columbia has a truly world-class timber resource and challenging terrain. With that comes the opportunity to make B.C. a centre of global excellence in forest-sector technology and equipment. We have the ultimate proving ground.”
The Grapple Camera provides the Operator with an improved view of the working area, which reduces the potential risk of a Hook Tender being “in the bite”, or the unsafe location where accidents can happen.
The first Contractor on board with this new technology was Fall River Logging. They received the first camera in November of 2015. To date, Kevin Playfair, Manager of Safety, and his Grapple Yarder Operator have been very impressed with the camera from both a safety and productivity point-of-view. “The feedback we received was immediately positive,” says Playfair, “Our guys can’t believe the difference the camera installation has made.” This endorsement led to more contractors adopting the technology.
“T-MAR Industries is committed to making technological improvements that help keep people safe,” says Tyson Lambert, Vice-President at T-MAR. “We value partners like TimberWest because it means real-life safety advancement can happen on the ground. The belief in our technology by TimberWest is a prime example of how companies can work together to improve the safety of high risk activities in the forest, and we are very proud of that accomplishment.”
Like so many other situations, good safety leads to greater effectiveness. The camera not only removes an individual from a dangerous situation, it improves productivity by:
Allowing operations in foggy conditions (common occurrence in coastal B.C.)
- Permitting low-light early starts (helpful during fire season)
- Facilitating grabbing more than one log per cycle
- Reducing log breakage
- Freeing up the hook tender to prepare for the next Grapple Yarder move.
Today, all of the grapple yarders operating on TimberWest land must have a grapple camera. T-MAR is now commercializing the camera and selling it globally.
This is a great example of home-grown safety innovation by a local company and enthusiastic adoption by our contractors. This is how BC is going to assert itself as a global leader in the forest sector.