Forest Industry Improves Safety Performance

September 19, 2007

The forest sector’s commitment to improving its safety performance is beginning to pay off with significant reductions in injuries and costs.

“As one of BC’s most important industries, representing 200,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributing over $3 billion to the provincial economy, this safety improvement is a vital step in the right direction for the sector, its workers and the province,” says Lee Doney, co-chair of the BC Forest Safety Council and principal of RLD Strategies.

According to statistics released in time for National Forest Week (Sept 23-29), between 2005 and 2006, there was a 21 per cent decrease in total claims in the forest sector, from 1,193 to 936.  As a result, the injury rate, or the number of short-term disability claims per 100 person years of WCB-covered employment, dropped and overall claims costs decreased by 39 per cent. 

“The reductions in injuries witnessed last year are due to the extraordinary focus on safety that began in late 2005 and continues today.  It has been a collaborative effort of the forest sector, WorkSafeBC and government,” says Doney.  “We still have a long way to go, but the results show our efforts are making a difference.

Commenting on the results, WorkSafeBC’s executive director for Prevention Services, Betty Pirs says “WorkSafeBC supports all industry initiatives that take ownership of health and safety issues.  Our collective goal is to eliminate serious injuries and death in this sector.  While we are encouraged by the improvement shown, there is no acceptable number when it comes to death or injury as a result of a workplace injury.”

To date, the Council reports thousands of companies have registered with its SAFE Companies program and hundreds have earned certification by completing the training, demonstrating their commitment to safety and showing their safety programs meet realistic standards.

Doney says the forest sector’s commitment to the SAFE Companies program is a symbol of the sector taking charge of its safety performance.  “There has been a crucial shift in attitudes toward safety over the last two years,” says Doney.  “The forest sector has said, ‘This is our problem, it is not acceptable and we are going to fix it.’” 

Keith Playfair, former representative of the Forest Safety Task Force, former co-chair of the Council and principal of KDL Group of Companies agrees.  “The forest sector has fundamentally changed how it approaches and practices safety with unparalleled efforts at all levels,” says Playfair.  “Because of this commitment to safety, we’re now seeing dramatic reductions in injuries and costs.”

Playfair, a former truck driver adds the forest sector remains concerned about the log hauling sector. 

“The log hauling sector needs our attention and will involve more than a focus on the firms and drivers,” says Playfair.  “We’ll also need to consider road issues and the hauling environment.”

The BC Forest Safety Council is a not-for-profit society dedicated to promoting forest health and safety.  It was founded and is supported by all major forestry organizations in BC and works with forestry employers, workers, contractors and the provincial government and agencies to implement changes necessary to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries in the forest sector.

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