WorkSafeBC Premiums Likely to Continue Rising for Brushing and Fire Fighting CUs (11/24/17)

Two forestry classification units (in red) are outstanding; but not for the right reasons.

Admittedly the above table may be oversimplified. But it is accurate in predicting that brushing and weeding and contract forest fire fighting may see their WorkSafeBC base rate premiums rise again in 2019. This may happen as a result of being moved to a higher risk rate group. Taking a closer look at the numbers, the brushing CU 2018 preliminary base premium rate just announced is $8.10 per hundred dollars of payroll. That is up almost 20% from 2015 at $6.85. Forest fire fighting has risen since 2016 at $6.25 to $7.81 for 2018. Of course classification units rates do rise and fall for a variety of reasons, not all related directly to safety performance. And individual firms within the CU may be exemplary actors with experienced ratings much lower than their CU’s base rate. Nevertheless these aggregate trends do say something. Consider that planting trees includes similar hard work comparable to fighting forest fires and tending plantations. And the tree planting and cone picking CU also has similar injury type claim patterns. Yet the planting CU 2018 rate is $3.61, half the rate of the other forestry activities we are discussing. These statistics need to be looked at more closely. But we might conclude that tree planting employers have overall made a concerted effort to reduce injuries in their sector and are having some success. Brushing and weeding and forest fire fighting employers need to do the same. To aid in that the BC SAFE Forestry Program is working with the BC Forest Safety Council to develop occupational competency guidelines for brushing and clearing saw operators as an initial step in reducing claims in the sector and improving practices. The Western Forestry Contractors’ Association has just struck a working group to find opportunities to collaborate with the BC Wildfire Service to ensure contract forest fire fighting crews are properly trained and employers have the tools, including certified instructors, to ensure workers have the right skills, knowledge and abilities for this hazardous work.