Antics and laughter in the forestry industry

By: Patrick Cox

Before we had hydraulic excavators to load logs, we used cable-operated cranes. These weren't easy to operate and coordinating your hand/foot movement was an absolute skill.

Forestry _excavator

Back in the eighties, when loading a truck, the 'hooky' or truck driver would stand on the pile of logs that had been pushed into a big heap with the bulldozer. The crane driver would then make the hook (found at the end of the cable) swing and wait for the hooky to catch it – preferably without knocking him over in the process.

Once caught, he would attach it to either side of the log and run like hell. The crane driver would already be applying tension and dragging the log out of the heap. Today's work safety inspectors would have a pink fit if they saw this.

I can recall one occasion when the hooky could not find the right log and ended up airborne. The crane driver had sighted a log further in the heap and hoisted him into the air, swung him around over the stack and dropped him on the right log. Scary stuff but it happened.

Another time, a logging crew returned to work after the weekend and found that someone had used the crane driver's seat as a toilet. The hooky rolled around the skid site in fits of laughter as the driver was faced with the smelly task of removing the offending waste – and secretly smeared it down both sides of the hook. Once at work, the hooky expertly caught the hook, and the crane driver put his head outside the window, "Hey, he did it on the hook as well".

One logging crew in the central North Island thought they had found a shortcut through the bush to the road from Napier to Taupo. This would have been perfect had it not been for the pub at Rangitaiki. After two nights in a row at the pub, the crew were still 25km from Taupo and ended up having booze-fuelled fights in the gang bus. Seats got broken, men were absent from work the next day, one logger even found himself in Napier. The contractor was not impressed and the shortcut got banned, funny that.

How times have changed. However, the death rate in the industry is pretty much the same today as it was then. We have added technology, produced new laws with severe punishment, but we need solutions – deterrents do not seem to work, they are just a good source of revenue.

Maybe a little camaraderie and enjoyment should be reintroduced into the industry's working environment to create better productivity and a safer workplace.

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