Ensuring qualified, competent, safe workers

Gerard Messier
August 11, 2017
By Gerard Messier
Aug. 11, 2017 - If you’re a logging contractor or licensee, how do you know if your employees are qualified to do their job? How do you train a new employee and make sure they have all the information and skills to be able to be productive and safe in their position?

Traditionally, it’s been an informal system of mentoring new workers along with supervisors observing experienced workers and evaluating their work.

However, there is a better competency based assessment and training system that is currently being used by logging industries in other parts of the world like New Zealand and Australia. This system is designed to allow a learner to demonstrate their ability to do something while on the job. A key thing is that workers are assessed on the job and this determines if they can or cannot (yet) do the thing that they are learning about.

For a specific job description, say yarder operator, the full position is broken down into units of competencies – all the things you need to be able to do and understand to be a competent, qualified, safe operator of a yarder. Some of those skills will be the same between jobs – for example, operators of many types of logging equipment will need to know the basics of hydraulics. Grouping these common skills into modules allows for the transferability of skills and mobility of workers within industry and from one industry to another.

The BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC), with funding from WorkSafeBC and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour (JTST), is working closely with experts from the logging industry to develop competency based guidelines that will help logging contractors assess and train their workers with the specific knowledge and skills for each job that they do. These guidelines are an on-the-job training and assessment toolkit that will allow employers to assess their workers against a standard and determine if they are qualified or if they need additional training.

Currently, competency standards have been developed for manual tree falling and for six cable yarding occupations along with the required learning resources and worker assessment tools. Pilot programs to test and refine these tools will be conducted in the second half of 2017 with existing workers in these yarding occupations and with new workers in the beginning of 2018. The pilots for falling will proceed after WorkSafeBC approval, tentatively expected later this year.

In addition, a JTST-funded program is underway for the development of guidelines for about 30 additional occupations related to road construction and mechanized harvesting which includes winch assist equipment, transportation and heli-rigging.

The BCFSC will submit a proposal to JTST to request continued funding for the development of the training materials for these 30 occupations. If successful, the training materials for these occupations will be developed in 2018.

All the training resources and assessment checklists will be made available, free of charge thanks to the public funding for their development, through an online learning and competency management system. This will enable industry to deliver on-the-job training to support the due diligence requirement of a qualified workforce, and allow existing professionals in the different occupations to take refresher training at their convenience – when and where it is most convenient for them online.

Competency guidelines have been completed or are being developed for the operation of the following equipment and occupations: faller, supervisor, non-articulating trucks (log and gravel), silviculture supervisor, bucker, grapple yarder, articulating trucks, brushing and weeding crewperson, excavator, tower, fuel trucks, heli-rigger, dozer, chokerperson, hiab trucks, trainer, wheel loader, rigging slinger, feller buncher, assessor, grader, landing utility person, skidder (wheeled and tracked), coach, backhoe, hook tender, dangle head processor, internal verifier, rock drill, crew boat, forwarder, external verifier, forklift, boom boat, and hoe chucker.    

This work will continue to be a focus of BCFSC’s efforts in supporting the development and assessment of a qualified and competent workforce where workers are well trained and well supervised leading to better safety outcomes.


Gerard Messier, RPF, is the program development manager for the BC Forest Safety Council.

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