WSCA Joins Forest Industry Safety Association

Silvicultural contractors voted in favour of bringing the silvicultural industry into the WCB-funded Forest Industry Safety Association (FISA) at the WSCA annual general meeting last month.

Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association – 6 February 2003

Key points summary:

  • WSCA members approved motion to join FISA at annual AGM 31 January ‘03;
  • WCB base rates will increase by 13 cents per hundred of payroll next year (2004) for affected forestry contractors;
  • $250,000 FISA silvicultural budget approved by WCB for this year;
  • WSCA will sign agreement with FISA this month;
  • Strategic planning and course development in consultation with industry will be main focus of program at first;
  • Some pilot training programs may run this spring but main bulk of FISA training not likely available until summer or fall;
  • Contractors,it’s your money. How do you want it spent on workplace safety and health?

The motion to bring the B.C. silvicultural industry into the Forest Industry Safety Association was passed by WSCA members at this year’s annual general meeting held in Prince George January 31. No members voted against the motion with 29 in favour and 3 abstentions. Contractors engaged in treeplanting, conepicking, wildfire fighting, mechanical and chemical brushing, spacing and thinning will be included in the program.

A memorandum of agreement will be signed between the WSCA executive and the FISA board later this month allowing program development to begin immediately. The WCB has approved a $250,000 budget for silvicultural industry planning and implementation this year. WCB estimates the costs of the health and safety scheme will increase rates by approximately 13 cents per hundred dollars of assessable annual payroll. The logic behind this initial expense is that by increasing safety and training in the industry injury rates and costs will decrease and so will base assessment rates resulting in an overall savings to businesses. These rate increases will not take effect until 2004.

Nevertheless, in spite of these significant developments there are not likely to be any dramatic changes to the availability of training and safety programs for silvicultural contractors in the near future. The WSCA and FISA must first develop a strategic plan that focuses spending on the prime areas responsible for most of the injuries and costs to the industry. A broad needs-assessment study will be implemented in the first months to identify and analyze industry injury trends, information gaps and training shortcomings, and make recommendations as to how FISA can remedy these problems. Following this a workplan will be developed which could include adapting existing training to the silvicultural industry, developing from scratch special programs needed for the unique silvicultural workplace, implementing outreach and education programs, creating voluntary certificate of recognition and safety certification programs for contractors etc.

“Getting this program up and running will likely tax the resources of this year’s WSCA board of directors; especially since they have their own businesses to run along with the necessary distractions that involves,” said WSCA Executive Director John Betts who will also work as FISA silvicultural industry coordinator. “Even with the assistance of the FISA board and their managers and their funding of a part time silvicultural industry coordinator this is one of the most ambitious ventures the WSCA has undertaken.”

“Sobering as that might be it is wise to remember this is our money we’re about to spend. This arrangement with FISA and WCB allows us to pool our resources and collectively invest back into the industry. There will be immediate direct benefits to contractors in some of the subsidized training that FISA will offer. But the main focus is to reduce injuries and increase safety awareness across the whole silvicultural business over the long term. Only by bringing down the overall costs, which we hope will produce a general net savings, can we justify charging ourselves this levy in the first place,” Betts said.

— Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association WSCA Executive Director’s Office, RR#3 S36 C9, Nelson B.C. V1L 5P6 Phone/fax 250-229-4380 e-mail hotpulp@netidea.com