As a result of the Council’s review of current safety practices and concerns, it became clear that there was a need for industry to provide the means for safety issues to be raised and discussed in as free and open a manner as possible. It was also clear that at times this was not occurring due to concerns with possible adverse repercussions to those raising the issues. As well, the relative inequality of size and influence of parties within the sector made the raising and discussion of safety issues difficult.
Given these concerns and the importance of safety to the forest sector, the BC Forest Safety Council has established the Forest Safety Ombudsman.
The Forest Safety Ombudsman will enhance safety in the BC forest sector by becoming a safe, confidential and persuasive agent for the raising and review of safety concerns throughout the sector and facilitating impartial and timely resolution of safety issues.
The Forest Safety Ombudsman is part of the BC Forest Safety Council and has a clear mandate to investigate safety issues and recommend the best means to address them. The Ombudsman will use review, recommendation, mediation and conciliation where necessary. The Ombudsman will also rely on international experience and leading examples of success to inform the process. The Ombudsman will adhere to the following principles of operation:
BC's first Forest Safety Ombudsman is Roger Harris. Roger Harris has experience in many areas of the forest sector. He has worked as a dishwasher in a logging camp, been a board member for a Local of the IWA and has owned and operated his own phase logging contract business.
Harris knows firsthand the importance of safety and the impact that injuries and fatalities can have on workers and their families. In 1986 while working as a falling contractor, his right hand was nearly severed when his chainsaw kicked back. His brother-in-law was killed in a forestry accident at age 18.
I have a passion for the woods becoming a safe place because I've been there. I've lived the worst side of it, but I think it's still the greatest occupation in the world. I want the Ombudsman's office to be a vehicle that deals with issues before we have incidents.