Logging worker deaths prompt WorkSafeBC inspections, 49 orders

A spike in logger deaths in B.C. in July led to a barrage of WorkSafeBC site inspections and a campaign to urge tree fallers to refuse dangerous work.

After 4 tree fallers died on the job in July 2015, WorkSafeBC carried out inspections of work sites along the province's coast, and issued 49 orders for not following regulations.

"Whenever we see a cluster of work-related deaths in one sector, it gets us concerned," said Al Johnston, the vice-president of prevention services at WorkSafeBC.

WorkSafeBC's fatal and serious injury investigations team is investigating those deaths.

Johnston said those orders were for violations such as poor tree falling cuts, having a tree brush up against another while it is being felled (which could pose a danger), and failing to have first aid available.

In total, 44, sites were inspected from Aug. 10 to Sept. 4,  resulting in a total of 206 inspection reports.

Johnston said WorkSafeBC had already put together a plan to improve their current inspections of coastal manual tree falling operations before the four deaths, but the tragedies speed up inspections.

WorksafeBC also called a special meeting with industry representatives on Aug. 6 to discuss what could be done to improve safety in the forest.

Five forest workers dead in 2015

Rob Moonen, the director of SAFE companies for the BC Forest Safety Council, said the forestry industry has worked to improve its safety record — especially in recent years.

Five forest workers have died in 2015 

The total for 2015 is lower than the annual rate of eight deaths since 2011, according to WorkSafeBC statistics.

These numbers are far lower than the average of 31 deaths per year from 1996 to 2005.

But Moonen said work does need to be done on industry's "safety attitude."

"It's now got to the point where [work] plateaued on a number of areas, and one is just driving that culture through," he said, adding that it's crucial for contractors to feel free to refuse unsafe work.

 

Johnston said one of the initiatives that WorkSafeBC proposed at the industry meeting in August is a toolkit to help workers in the forest industry understand their rights to refuse unsafe work.

Embed culture of safety

"If they see unsafe situations we need them to ensure that they don't just keep in working in an unsafe situation."

"Involve us at WorkSafe if they need to," he said.

"The culture of safety needs to be well-embedded and be on equal footing on production, in all workplaces. Sometimes the best practices — what the CEO says at the top of the house — doesn't meet all the way down to the shop floor."

Source: CBC.ca