Occupational Safety First

The job of foresters is the second ranked among the world's most dangerous occupations

Hard manual labour under clear skies, in rain, snow or heat, would be a brief description of a working day of employees with the Hercegbosna Forestry Company in Kupres. Once they receive their daily assignments, from early morning, they travel some 50 km on average across the rough terrain. Forest management involves cultivation and protection of forests, its proper exploitation, conservation of forest flora, but also taking care of the workers on the field through the implementation of appropriate occupational safety measures, because the job of foresters is the second ranked among the world's most dangerous occupations.

The biggest burden is on loggers. They must be on high alert; they perform heavy labour in virtually all weather conditions and in remote terrain. To that can attest Zahidin Otužbić, who works as a cutter. “If you do not know how to take care of yourself, it is really easy to get hurt. If you know how to keep safe, then there are less injuries. Many people cut themselves, or get hit by a bough. It happens. Just hit while walking.”

Through its project of support to forestry in certification of about 300 employees with the Kupres Forestry Company, trainings have been organised in first aid, occupational safety in forestry, and the risk of mines and unexploded ordnance.

“In addition to the equipment that we have received through the project, there are also first-aid kits intended primarily for forestry works. We also had trainings with experts provided by UNDP. Here I must emphasise that it is very important that not only our staff took part in the training, but also those who are closely associated with us, our stakeholders, namely our contractors, meaning cutters who work in the woods, perform cutting, processing and export of wood assortments”, explained Draško Brnić, Manager of the Hercegbosna Forestry Company.

As injuries are frequent, and the nearest medical facility is remote; each team on the field consists of at least one member trained in first aid. First aid kit must be placed in a prominent place and available at all times.

One of the workers, Ilija Šimić, described how the first aid kit can save a life. “If an accident happens during felling, or receiving, or the work performed by contractors in the forest or a tractor driver, as receivers, we have with us a bag, so-called first aid, that can be administered right there on the spot.”

However, in the forest are hidden some other perils. “In addition, in seasons of ticks or snakes in cooperation with UNDP, we got some personal small sets for every group leader so we can easily remove ticks on-site. We also have a bandage for possible immobilisation of a wrist and minor injuries”, explained Marko Mrša, Assistant Manager of the Hercegbosna Forestry Company.

On top of the risk in their everyday work, foresters in Kupres face threats from mines and war remnants. In the area of this forest estate, the size of the mine contaminated area is 30,132 km2.

“In cooperation with international organisations, the last contact was with UNDP, and we have received certain maps with updated data on minefields and the state of suspected areas. So today, in addition to areas marked as suspected, markings that must not be removed also need to be placed. In cooperation with UNDP and through this form of information gathering, we are trying to reduce this size, so that the work in the forest, in addition to this, would not pose even a great risk due to mines”, added Mrša.

Education and training of workers in forestry is only one part of the project Applying the Human Security Concept to Stabilise Communities in the Canton 10, jointly implemented by UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM, in partnership with the Government of the Canton 10, municipal authorities and civil society organisations. The project is funded by the United Nations Human Security Fund.

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