2008 in Review – Faller Supervisor Alert

British Columbia
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
BC Forest Safety Council
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

In 2006 and 2007, Certified Fallers in BC went a record 28 months with no fatalities. This was the result of the hard work, attention to detail, and good falling practices put in place by fallers and supervisors every day around the province.

But in 2008, EIGHT men died on the job (as indicated on the WorkSafeBC Notice of Incidents).  Seven of them were experienced certified fallers, with the skills, knowledge and ability to fall safely. Each of these fallers also had a supervisor. Someone who will never forget the day one of their fallers died, and will always wonder if they could have done anything to avoid this worst-case outcome.

We don’t know all of the factors that led to each of these fatalities.But now is the time to consider what you can do to make yourself and your crew more committed to getting and staying on the right side of the many hazards that you face each day.

What happened?

Four of these fatalities were caused by danger trees left standing. Three were caused by trees that had been, or were being, bucked. In some cases the basic rules of falling were ignored – being within two tree lengths of another faller; working below a bucked tree, or lack of an escape route.And these weren’t rookies.

These certified fallers all had between 6 and 30 years of falling experience. But the result was the same for all these men - some incredibly experienced fallers wound up dead.In addition to the Notice of Incidents received from WorkSafeBC, there were 2 additional falling fatalities reported in 2008.

At the beginning of 2008, a landowner with no falling experience died while attempting to fall a tree on his own property. At the end of 2008, a certified faller suffered an apparent heart attack while falling.

Learnings and Suggestions: 

Supervisor Alert!

Don’t let these deaths go by without taking action. We won’t have a good idea of all the factors that contributed to these fatalities until WorkSafeBC and other investigations are complete. That can take months or years.

You and your fallers can’t wait that long – maybe making some of the same errors along the way.

What Should You Do?

First, talk to your crew now. Fallers don’t always know how many fatalities have happened or hear any details about what went wrong. Get everything out in the open.

Emphasize that fatalities and serious injuries CAN be prevented. 2006 and 2007 were proof that fallers can dramatically change their own safety outcomes.

Don’t assume that you know all the details about what happened. Focus on what you do know and what you can do about it. We’ve included a Supervisor Step-by-Step safety meeting outline to this bulletin. You can use all or part of it at your next safety meeting.

Second, take a close look at yourself. Supervisors have many responsibilities on a job site: planning, production, quality, reporting and more. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that NOTHING is more important than getting your men home safe at the end of the day.

Do you do good site assessments before you send fallers in? Do you walk the block? Would you delay the start of work to deal with a hazard or would you just let it go? Think about it.

Do you evaluate the faller, or evaluate the stump? Stumps can tell you something about how the faller made their cuts. But watching the faller can tell you how safely he is working or whether he is ignoring hazards in order to lay the wood down faster.

Look to see if a pattern of poor habits is developing.

Do you step in and coach your fallers when you see sloppy workmanship? Everyone can drift into bad habits at work. For most people their bad habits won’t kill or disable them. Falling is different. Watching the faller work, looking at his work practises, encouraging good habits and pointing out better techniques is critical. You have the skills, authority and responsibility to do that.

Are you being tough when you need to be? When fallers commit one of the deadly sins of falling, it doesn’t just put them at risk. It risks their co-workers on site, it risks a fine or worse from WorkSafeBC, and it risks your reputation as a supervisor running a safe operation. This is the time to drive home the message that some actions are never OK and will never be allowed on your site. It’s ultimately your main responsibility as a faller supervisor. You will sleep better at night for it, your crew will respect your clarity, and overall safety will improve.

One fatality is too many. Eight is a disaster. The falling community proved through 2006 and 2007 that when everyone paid attention, fatalities could be prevented. There were no fewer hazards in those years. The production pressure was always there. But attention was paid and it paid off, big time.

Let’s get back on track in 2009. You can make the difference.

For more information on this submitted alert: 


BC Forest Safety Council

"Unsafe is Unaceptable"

File attachments
Faller Supervisor Bulletin December 2008.pdf
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