Major Silviculture Workplace Changes in Works

Major workplace changes now in the works will effect who qualifies to operate as a forestry contractor in British Columbia in the next few years. The changes flow out of the newly established BC Forest Safety Council. The WSCA 2005 Conference will introduce the proposed BC Safe Silviculture Program for contractor input.

December 11, 2004

A Message from the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association to all B.C. Silviculture and Fire Fighting Contractors About Major Pending Workplace Changes for the B.C. Silviculture Sector

Over the next two years major workplace changes will be implemented by the BC Forest Safety Council that will effect not only how you run your business, but whether or not you do business in British Columbia as a forestry contractor. These plans are intended to reduce the unacceptable high rate of deaths and injuries in the BC forest sector by improving the competency of workers and contractors.

The BC Forest Safety Council is not the WCB or another wing of government, but an organization owned and made up by the forest sector. It formed itself this summer following on the recommendations of the B.C. Forest Safety Task Force (January 19, 2004). It is built on the principle that the industry, through self-regulation, can best fix its own problems.

For forestry contractors it means that, as with other contractors in the forest sector, companies like yours will have to undergo an audit of their practices regarding workplace safety and employment standards. The audit will be a prerequisite to being prequalified eligible to bid on forestry work in B.C., either for government or private industry. Without this annually renewed certification you will not work in the province’s forest sector in the future. The certification will have force because all the stakeholder associations representing the logging and forestry contractors, the province’s forest companies and the ministry of forests sit on the Council and have agreed to the new rules and intend to abide by them.

The same certification provisions will also apply to key forest occupations such as fallers (certification is already underway), supervisors and drivers. Other silvicultural workers such as ATV operators, fire fighters, chainsaw brushers and spacers, remote camp first aid attendants and prescribed burn crews are being considered for trained qualfication before being allowed to work in the sector. As a certified employer you will only hire certified and qualified employees as required, otherwise you will risk your certification to work in the forest sector.

The Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association is a founding member of the BC Forest Safety Council. It has been asked by the Council to develop and deliver a broad three-year health and safety and employment standards plan for the silvicultural contracting industry. The BC Safe Silviculture Program will include setting industry-based standards for certification and qualification, developing required training materials and their delivery and establishing and maintaining a registry of certified companies and trained workers in the province. This will be a major undertaking for both the WSCA and the B.C. silvicultural contracting industry; and that is likely an understatement.

At the moment the WSCA is working on a workplan outlining how it will fulfill its agreement with the Council. This framework will describe the Program’s main objectives, how the industry intends to reach them, and when we will achieve them. A budget of approximately $500,000 in Council funds over three years has been set to establish the Program. However, by the end of the three years the scheme intends to be self-supporting relying on training and certification fees for sustaining revenues. The pay off for this investment, we hope, will be a healthier, safer, more professional silvicultural industry, a reduction in suffering and injury in our sector, and lower future costs for workplace accidents, injuries and insurance.

Considerable work by both the Council and the WSCA has gone into this proposed Program so far; much of it in the last fews months and at an accelerated pace. The Council is determined to move very quickly from talk to action, since in may cases it feels workers’ lives are at stake. (On average 25 forest workers die each year in B.C.)

Nevertheless, the bulk of the work lies ahead. So far the WSCA has a budget framework, a program outline, and some options. But the details, the actual standards, processes and infrastructure of the Program, the things that will directly affect your company and how you do business in the next few years, are not in place yet. That process is about to get underway soon.

The WSCA will hold its annual conference and AGM in Prince George early next year January 19-21, 2005. At this event we will introduce the BC Safe Silviculture Program. Besides presenting and explaining the Program, the main purpose will be to seek guidance from the silvicultural industry on how to proceed with the critical details that will make the program work on the ground.

One of the overarching principles of the Council and its programs is that they be industry-owned and industry-designed. Where the BC Safe Silviculture Program goes will be designed by silvicultural contractors like you in concert with the overall objectives of the BC Forest Safety Council. To put it another way, the future of our sector around workplace safety and employment, will be determined by those who show up at the meetings. The first meeting, and perhaps one of the most important, is next year at the WSCA Prince George Conference. We urge you to attend.

In writing this short message to silvicultural contractors like you, who work and invest in their businesses here in B.C., we hope that you are an interested and committed enough person(s) to recognize the significance of what has just been briefly outlined in these pages. You should have some questions. And to be frank with you we may not have all the answers yet. But this should only emphasize that the silviculture industry is being asked to work together in responding to the Council’s expectations and for that it needs the input and support from contractors like yourself.

Included with this letter is a registration package and outline of the WSCA 2005 conference program. You will see the conference includes sessions on other vital issues for silvicultural contracting such as forest funding, BC Timber Sales contract tendering, and competing in a market where the buyers are consolidating their power over contractors.

The WSCA has been putting these annual conferences on for more than two decades. They are never disappointing according to those who attend and this one is one of the most important in years. By attending you will have a direct say in the future shape of the industry you depend on for a living.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

On behalf of the WSCA,

John Betts Executive Director Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association

For more information go to the BC Forest Safety Council website at www.forestsafetybc.com