Alarm bells have been ringing in the wake of a recent rash of fatalities either directly or indirectly related to forestry activities.

There have been five forestry related deaths this year and two fatalities associated with forestry activity.

  • July 24th, a manual tree faller was struck by a tree and fatally injured in the Port McNeil area.
  • July 27th, a grapple skidder operator was struck by a log and fatally injured while working on a grapple yarding logging operation north of Revelstoke.
  • A log truck driver rear ended another log truck on the Alaska Highway.
  • Pickup truck driver at the side of a road was struck by another truck.
  • Faller struck by root wad/tree in North Coast area.

The associated deaths occurred when a low bed truck driver was killed while pulling fallen trees off a road, and a tree faller was struck by a tree during a falling operation on a wildfire.

There were four direct fatalities at this point last year, and eleven in 2013.

CEO of the BC Forest Safety Council Reynold Hert says the number of fatalities is not a sign the industry is letting down its guard ” When I look at the type of incidents that have occurred, they are all very different so we’re certainly going to learn on one or a couple of them on what could have been done better, but I don’t see anything that would indicate the industry is letting its guard down”

The incidents sparked a meeting late last week of members of the forestry industry and WorkSafe BC as they searched for answers and solutions says Hert “There were over 30 people in the room, taking a look at what caused these spikes , are we off track, what additional steps need to be taken, how do we make sure that this isn’t a permanent up and we maintain our momentum and continue to go down, so there is quite a concern in the industry and a lot of people putting a lot of effort into this.”

He says if anything, the industry has been stepping up its game  and points to the efforts in  the logging truck sector as an example “Between the end of last year and the beginning of this year, the industry has had training sessions for over 2,400 log truck drivers specifically to address the anatomy of a roll over what causes roll overs especially on public highways. Having done that amount of work we’re seeing the number of log truck incidents come down significantly on public highways.”

Already some action has been taken to step up safety training for fallers “Fallers work for a number of independent contractors all through the province, so where do you get some consistant support? So a couple of   things have happened.   In order to increase support for fallers on the Coast, the major coastal companies have now made it a requirement   that the supervisors for falling crews, are certified falling supervisors, in other words, they’ve raised the bar on what it takes   to be a falling supervisor, and they now want an independent third party ( the BC Forest Safety Council) assessing do people have that qualification. In addition, there is a falling technical advising committee and this is fallers from around the province, falling supervisors who meet four times a year on how to we make the next improviements. One of the things they wanted was   to have some expert fallers available to the industry who could travel around to the different locations and do an assessment on how they are doing and provide some additional training for those who need it.” That initiative has grown from one expert to three.

Hert says WorkSafeBC has indicated it is stepping up inspection on falling activities for the balance of the year to make sure there are more eyes and ears on the ground ensuring falling activities are being done properly.

He says it’s encouraging that safety in the industry is moving on the path to improvement to ensure everyone gets home at the end of the day.

“If you went back ten years ago, if we had five fatalities, you wouldn’t hear about it, very few people would take an interest in it. This year we’ve had five fatalities and the majority of leadership in industry was in a room with WorkSafe, saying what are we going to do next and what further steps can we take?   All of that to me is positive, that people are on board, that they’re interested , that they want to see a difference be made, and they want to see that this industry continues on the improvement path it’s been on for the past ten years.”

The Working Forest