Wood Business

Features Health and Safety Sawmilling
Industry-led injury reduction

June 6, 2015 - When British Columbia’s direct forest industry fatality rate was averaging 27 people per year leading up to 2004 (22 in the woods, five in the mills), the B.C. Labour Minister met with industry leaders and said either the industry could lead a change resulting in reduced fatalities and injuries, or the minister could. The minister’s tools were inspections, orders, fines and penalties, while industry’s tools were innovation, collaboration, and improving and sharing best practices.

June 5, 2015  By Reynold Hert

The B.C. forest industry chose to lead, and created the B.C. Forest Safety Council to help it make the necessary changes.

It’s easy for a safety organization to feel like it owns the responsibility for finding a solution, and slip into behaviours that take ownership away from the industry members. However, this can turn into a safety organization trying “to lead the industry,” making the industry feel like safety is being done “to them” rather than in support of them. This can make industry become disenfranchised and feel as if there is a second mini-regulator at play – avoid this approach!

Industry-led safety initiatives require active ownership and participation by respected industry people to create solutions. A safety organization can provide support to the group through data, outside expertise, organizing meetings and any other needs the group has; but in the end, the industry people need to walk out of the room owning the solution and championing its implementation as a best practice.  

When industry develops and owns the solutions it can be a powerful force; when a safety organization takes on this role it has the potential to be frustrating and bureaucratic.


Here are some examples of industry-led injury reduction work:

  • The Coast Harvesting Advisory Group has developed and is implementing best practices for eliminating phase congestion in harvesting. Work is underway on mechanical harvesting applications on steep slopes to reduce exposure by fallers; options for dealing with dangerous trees, managing the hazards in falling during the transition from old growth to second growth; improving supervisory skills, and upgrading skills to see hazards in a degraded image environment.
  • The silviculture sector has researched the effects of diet and hydration on tree planters and implemented changes in food and fluids reducing injuries significantly. One group is working with tenure holders to reduce quad rollover injuries by developing best practices in road deactivation. Work is also underway to improve footwear to reduce falls, reduce exposure to chemicals in fertilizer and improve emergency response.
  • Fallers through the Falling Technical Advisory Committee have developed a written guideline for falling supervisor skills. The committee has also initiated making falling advisors available to companies to review and update practices, and is supporting work on fatigue management as well as the application of the diet and nutrition work from tree planting to falling.
  • The Trucking Advisory Group is working to reduce log load spills on public roads. They initiated actions to effectively manage overweight loads; are sponsoring training for over 2,000 log truck drivers and loader operators on what causes a rollover; and are expanding the use of telematics as a tool to identify and manage driver behaviour.  In 2014, load spills were down 20 per cent compared to 2013.

The recent overhaul of the SAFE Certification was done by an industry working team and steering team, with testing in operating locations.

There are more than 60 industry people involved on the industry-owned and led groups who are working to reduce injuries. All the work by everyone in the industry has achieved a reduction in direct fatalities in the woods to an average of eight per year over the past five years, and a low of four in 2014.

Reynold Hert joined the B.C. Forest Safety Council as chief executive officer in March 2009. Hert brings to the council a firm belief that safe businesses are the best businesses.


Print this page


Stories continue below