Silvicultural contractors adopt new safety program for tree planters

CBC – January 20, 2005 – 6:30 a.m. A major forestry association has adopted a new safety program for tree planters in B.C.

The Western Silvicultural Contractors Association says the industry has one of the highest injury rates in the forestry sector. Karen Kwan reports.

Karen Kwan: Silviculture workers are injured three times more often than forestry workers overall. Anik MacIntosh [sp?] has been tree planting for six years.

Anik MacIntosh: I’ve seen people given keys to vehicles who have never driven on dirt roads before and said: “Here you go. You have five passengers. Get to the block.”

Kwan: It’s not just drivers. Workers, often young people, sometimes use chainsaws with little training. Half of 6,000 silviculture workers in B.C. are under the age of 25.

John Betts is the executive director of the Western Silvicultural Contractors Association. He says the injuries create delays for companies and lead to higher insurance costs.

Betts: We are extremely dependent on labour, so we have a real keen interest in keeping people healthy.

Kwan: The association has come up with a new safety plan to try to reduce the number of injuries. Over the next three years the group will develop standard training for workers in B.C. Betts says some, such as drivers and supervisors, might have to undergo certification. Others, such as tree planters, would just receive some extra training.

The program would apply only to the association’s members. The association plans to do regular audits to make sure contractors are complying with the new rules.