May 12, 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10

Warning: Some of the facts in this publication should be talked about in mixed company.

Time to talk about work place harassment

Gender balance is almost equal in tree planting. But the management hierarchy is predominately male. Pic

It could be expected that the tree planting work place might include the risk of harassment and bullying. After all we hire people, and they don’t all behave. Sometimes they need direction. But it did surprise us when our 2014 BC Workforce Initiative reported almost half of the workers surveyed reported being victims of, or witnesses to verbal abuse. That this kind of behavior would be so widely reported was unexpected. At the same time the study only indicated the possible width of the problem saying little about its depth. Around the same time we began to hear allegations of far more serious behavior, some of it criminal, involving both men and women victims on crews. Worse, in some cases the bullies and harassers were supervisors. All this—the verbal abuse reports along with the more serious allegations— was beginning to suggest a deeper problem in the sector was announcing itself.

We also had to consider how much our work places and conditions resemble university campuses: same demographics; same gender balance and same opportunities for abuse. University campuses, of course, have been causing a national uproar because of the epidemic of sexual assaults among students. Admittedly this was mostly circumstantial evidence. But it was sufficient grounds for the Western Forestry Contractors’ Association to hold a work place harassment workshop at its 2017 annual conference earlier this year. That discovery session was revelatory. The gist of it is the industry may have some blind spots that need to be looked into and some assumptions that need to be challenged if our progress towards fully respectful work places is going to be genuine. We recommend owners and supervisors read the proceedings of the session to reflect on their own practices and procedures and their effectiveness in preventing bullying, harassing or worse. Read more here.

Rising Rivers, Large Snow Packs, and Warm Rains Pose Threats Across Province to Forestry Crews

Watch out for slides and washouts – Freshet is kicking in with unusual force across many regions in the province.

In years like this when we see flood watches across the province ( ), we have to remind ourselves that drowning is the leading cause of death in the silviculture/forestry sector. These deaths have occurred not only on Coast marine settings, but on rivers and lakes in the Interior as well. Victims have died while being transported on vessels, trucks, personal vans, ATVs or simply been swept away. With these tragedies in mind we advise drivers in particular to make sure with these conditions they make their approach to bridges seeing they are intact, that culverts have not filled and washed away, and that nobody attempts to walk across any swollen creeks deeper than their calves. Intense rain in the current snowpack conditions in many parts can take out roads and precipitate slides and rock falls in a matter of hours. Best to drive like the road might not be there. Because it might not. Flood Alert for Forestry Crews

SAFE Forestry Program to Pilot In-Field Forestry Safety Advocate This Spring

Jordan Tesluk in-field Forestry Safety Advocate to visit crews this spring.

This summer, newly-designated Forestry Safety Advocate Jordan Tesluk will be visiting various contractors in tree planting, brushing and spacing, and professional forestry across the province as part of the BC SAFE Forestry Program’s commitment to reducing injuries and promoting well-being in the forestry sector. As the Forestry Safety Advocate he will be seeking conversations with contractors and their staff to talk about the health and safety challenges they are facing in the field, and to learn what we could all be doing better to reduce injuries, incidents, and insurance rates. He will also be bringing a toolkit of educational resources to each camp or operation.

In recent years, two challenges have become increasingly apparent for the BC SAFE Forestry Program. First, the materials and training resources developed by the BCSFP have not been reaching enough people. Second, there is constant changeover in the industry, and new voices and new leaders are needed to help ensure silviculture and forestry consultants’ interests continue to be represented as changes in regulation and safety standards are made. With these in mind Tesluk will make his visits as part of a pilot program to see how practical and effective this approach might be. If it works the plan is to look at ways to support the position each year.

With fifteen years as a planter and long serving volunteer on the BC SAFE Forestry Program Strategic Advisory Committee we figure he will be able to find his way around the industry. For more information, contact Jordan Tesluk at