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February 6, 2017
Volume 17, Issue 3

Warning: Many of the facts contained in this post-WSCA Conference publication occurred last week and may not be as fresh as they were then.

Forestry Contractors Endorse BC Forest Safety Ombudsman Report on Emergency Medical Services

Contractors who operate forestry crews across the province have endorsed BC Forest Safety Ombudsman Roger Harris’ report on improving emergency medical services in rural British Columbia saying its recommendations will make their industry safer. The report Will It Be There? A report on helicopter emergency services in B.C. was released last week. It summarizes a year-long investigation into the challenges of getting seriously injured forestry workers from remote sites to emergency care.

“The BC Safety Ombudsman makes recommendations that are very important and relevant to our sector,” said John Lawrence, President of the Western Forestry Contractors’ Association (WFCA). “The report is thorough and well researched. Roger Harris and the BC Forest Safety Council deserve credit for recognizing the seriousness of this problem and making practical recommendations that will increase the safety of our workers across B.C.”

The WFCA estimates the forestry contracting sector employs over 8,000 workers who plant trees, survey forests, lay out roads, and tend plantations. Their work is spread across the province; often at some distance from emergency services. In the past ambulances have had difficulty reaching injured workers because of the conditions of roads and access.

The BC Safety Ombudsman’s report recommends Government mandate guaranteed timelines for access to appropriate trauma care for all British Columbians; and that there be a review of the current legislation as it pertains to BC ambulance services. Roger Harris states that all British Columbians, not just workers, should be within one hour of an appropriate trauma center. For much of this province this would mean a helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) system similar to jurisdictions such as Alaska and Washington states.

“As the report lays out other jurisdictions with similar landscapes and geography to our province have HEMS,” said Lawrence. “We believe this kind of system needs to be considered by our provincial government as a benefit to workers and residents. In the meantime we will continue our efforts to reduce injuries in our sector. But having HEMS to back us up would make a significant difference to reducing the consequences of accidents and injuries.”

Now We’re The Western Forestry Contractors’ Association

New organization, same logo sort of…

Members of the Consulting Foresters of British Columbia (CFBC) and the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association (WSCA) have voted to combine their organizations into the new Western Forestry Contractors’ Association (WFCA). The WFCA is expected to be a stronger voice in advocating for forestry in Western Canada and representing the business interests of its members. There was strong support for the move among members of both organizations in votes taken at their respective AGMs earlier this year.

The WSCA 2017 Annual Conference in (Very) Brief: Last Week’s Conference Was Outstanding. Here’s What stood Out

Forest Safety Ombudsman Calls for Emergency Response Time Guarantees and Provincial Review

Roger Harris released the results of his two-year long investigation into the challenges of getting seriously injured workers from remote sites to emergency care. Speaking to conference delegates he outlined his reasons for recommending government mandate guaranteed timelines for access to appropriate trauma care for all British Columbians; and that there be a review of the current legislation as it pertains to BC ambulance services. The report was welcomed by delegates as important and relevant to improving safety in our sector. To read the full report click here.

Looking Back on Silviculture Safety: Many Gains Since 2000, But Challenges Remain

Overall tree planting claims are down, but injury rates have flattened.

Silviculture sector safety auditor and researcher Jordan Tesluk reminded delegates of the progress we have made as a sector in improving the health and safety of workers. But we expect a lot from them, many of whom are young and evidently feeling the pressure for production. That may be reflected in the recent leveling of safety statistics in tree planting. It may even be the case that the competitive pressure on piecework rates is eating gains made in safety. At the same time we have been spared any fatalities for over eight years in the sector. But Tesluk has observed many conditions still persist that make us vulnerable to calamity.

TSB On Marine Safety and Silviculture Crew

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada doesn’t usually work with a sector until after a disaster or incident. So it is a unique and a good thing when they work with industry proactively to prevent disasters. The Marine Safety Advisory Group was formed under the aegis of the BC Forest Safety Council in part due to marine tragedies and close calls involving silviculture crews. As TSB investigator Glenn Budden told conference delegates one of the outcomes of that group’s work will be to produce guidelines for contractors on how to hire competent masters and fit vessels for transporting crews.

Workplace Harassment Panel Proves Revealing

Sexism and workplace harassment is likely more prevalent in the silviculture sector than we might want to admit. That was certainly the drift and gist of the narratives shared by both women and men at the conference panel aimed at defining what a respectful silviculture workplace should look like. Among the disturbing stories, there was evidence of employers, supervisors and workers who are getting it right. It’s with these good examples that the industry needs to work to make sure zero tolerance is actually practiced, offering protection to workers in our sector.

Forestry Promises Look Good: But Where’s (most of) The Money?

Work is proceeding on our government’s significant and encouraging suite of forestry commitments made last year as the conference forestry policy panel outlined. Forests For Tomorrow and the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. both have funding and plans in place to execute their mandates—to the benefit of forests, we would hope, and the forestry contracting sector. Less clear is where and how the substantial commitments contained in the Forest Climate Action Leadership plan will shape up. Chief Forester Diane Nicholls made it clear that the substance of those promises was still at the political level. For the WFCA it means watching this year’s budget and working with our government to achieve its goals as promised.

Forest Practices Board: Unique and Important to the Forest Sector

Forest Practices Board Chair Tim Ryan reminded delegates that its been 20 years since the Board’s inception and we may need to remind ourselves about the unique and important part it has played, and continues to play, in shaping forestry practices as the province’s forestry watchdog. He outlined some of the work it sees going forward, recognizing that some of it was in response to matters raised by the WSCA. Although Ryan wasn’t advocating it, it was apparent to many delegates during questions that British Columbians might benefit from the Forest Practices Board having an expanded mandate to cover more resource activities than just forestry.

Bio Char: Carbonized Snake Oil? Or The Teal Thing?

Delegates heard from more than one presenter during the forest policy panel that we cannot continue the profligacy of burning so-called waste wood after harvesting. So it was significant to hear researchers describe the properties of pyrolysis-derived bio-char. It can filter water, rebuild soil, boost plant production, sequester carbon, host healthy microbes and create possible value out of low value wood fibre. One of the problems researcher John Miedema admitted to was that when they describe all its benefits people don’t believe one simple substance can actually have all those beneficial properties.

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson: Don’t Give Up On Politics

We may have good reason to be skeptical of politicians said politician Bob Simpson in his keynote address to conference delegates. Politicians spend too much energy trying to remain in power rather than practicing good government and solving problems said Simpson. At the same time the public should not accept these antics and raise, rather than lower, their expectations of elected officials. It is only through people increasing their commitment to good government that we will be able to solve the complex problems of forestry and society as a whole he said.

The Leader of the Loyal Opposition Anticipates Tough Campaign This Spring

John Horgan told delegates he expects to be buried in negative criticism by the BC Liberals as part of their campaign to discredit the NDP as incompetent to form the next government. But he promised to answer back aggressively pointing out the deficiencies, as he sees them, in Christie Clark’s government. He promised the NDP would announce its forestry platform closer to the election stating that if he was elected the current government commitments would continue and be expanded upon.