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Aim low in 2015

By all accounts, it looks like 2015 is going to be a good year for the forest industry. Oil prices are low, the Canadian dollar has plummeted and the eastern provinces are starting to see solid growth with Ontario leading the climb.

Albeit in the B.C. Interior, fibre supply is tightening as less of the beetle-kill wood is making it through processing into lumber – there’s a lot more breakage, so recovery rates are dropping even in mills that have been very good at using the dead wood up to this point. Companies are jostling for access to the mid-term logs (the ones that will keep the industry running while the pine forests grow back) and those that end up with the fibre will see a profitable return.

In Eastern Canada, companies will be scrambling to take advantage of the favourable trading conditions to ramp up production and get everyone back-to-work after such an extended and brutal downturn. Skilled workers have left in many regions since much of the training provided in the forest and mills is transferable to other industries. Others have simply retired (see page 36 for more).

Resource industries are cyclical in nature and this year forestry is up for its day-in-the-sun. While recruiting bodies to add that second shift, or harvest more logs to take advantage of higher prices, don’t overlook the necessary training required to ensure workers are qualified for the jobs they’re given.

As I’ve toured a number of operations across the country in recent years, I’ve noticed quite a range in the amount of precaution and preparation around safety issues from one company to the next. Many managers work hard to keep injuries down and are proud of their team’s safety record. Others need to be reminded to keep safety top of mind.

The forest industry in B.C. has made a concerted effort over the last few years to improve its safety
record. In 2005, more than 40 forestry workers died on the job but in 2014 the industry managed to get that number down to three. Industry leaders managed to radically shift a culture that recognized the dangerous nature of many of the jobs in forestry, and thus had come to accept fatalities as inevitable. By prioritizing training and qualifications, workers are now better prepared to overcome challenges without putting themselves at risk of injury.

Fallers are now required to undergo training and certification to work in the industry, and improved communication has made it easier for crews to express safety concerns. A company’s favourable safety record is a sign of professionalism and competent management.

It has never been more important to focus on safety as experienced workers prepare to retire and a new generation of less experienced employees take their places. On-the-job training isn’t sufficient; employers need to adequately prepare new hires and experienced workers through training programs, certification, sharing best practices and other activities of engagement.

As the forest industry actively works to recruit new and experienced workers to fill the gaps in the ranks of skilled workers, at Canadian Forest Industries we want 2015 to be a good year to work in forestry. To this end, we’ve asked safety experts like B.C. Forest Safety Council CEO, Reynold Hert, to help us spread this culture of safety through a new column that will share best practices to prevent injuries (see Hert’s column on page 10). Hert’s inaugural column looks at the economic benefit of focusing on safety.

The B.C. Forestry Safety Council is working towards zero fatalities by focusing on safety responsibility, planning and robust risk assessments. Let’s follow their lead and make this a national mission for the forest industry. Let’s make 2015 a successful year in which everyone makes it home to his or her family.



February 12, 2015  By Amie Silverwood

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