Lack of hazard identification cited in faller fatality review

Canadian OH&S News
July 6, 2009

Failure to completely identify hazards before performing tree falling operations in British Columbia was a major contributory cause in nearly all serious injuries and fatalities in the sector since 2000, says a newly released report.

The review and analysis of the 32 faller-related serious injuries and fatalities between 2000 and 2008 — conducted by an internal team comprised of WorkSafeBC investigators — found that in 28 cases, planning done by all parties did not include full identification of hazards in advance of work beginning. In particular, site-specific information (terrain, soil/slope stability, known hazards, wind patterns, wind thrown trees, natural and man-made hazards, species of danger tree and/or root rot) “is not being provided to the fallers and supervisors who need it to safely perform their work,” says the report, released on June 25.

On a positive note, no fallers certified through the BC Faller Training Standard (BCFTS) certification process died on the job between 2006 and 2007, the document points out. Before this period, there were 26 faller fatalities between 2000 and 2005 and another seven in 2008. Although the fallers killed last year were well-experienced, the report says, “the investigations of these incidents in every case, but one, showed that inadequate procedures were being used instead of the BCFTS best practices, and those deficiencies led directly to the fatal results.”

Prior to the BCFTS, “there was no either regulatory or industry standard that was recognized as the safe way to do this particular task of manually falling trees,” says Steven Mueller, director of forest worker development with the BC Forest Safety Council. “If your Dad happened to be a safe faller, chances are you’d end up safe, but if you got under the wing of somebody who maybe took shortcuts, you’d learn those shortcuts too.”

Tom Bailey, manager of forestry and utilities at WorkSafeBC, agrees, saying that by contrast the BCFTS has even been adopted across Canada by Enform for seismic line fallers (who cut down trees before using seismic lines to search for oil and gas).

Another concern highlighted in the report is the industry’s shift toward small contracting companies of fewer than five workers, many of whom are owner/operators, which “makes quality control of the faller and supervisory work processes more difficult.” Consider that in half of the 32 accidents, the supervisor was a working faller and spent little time supervising another worker, and in 11 cases, the supervisor lacked knowledge of safe falling methods.

Other findings include that:

Team calls for clear definition of faller supervisor

The investigation team issued seven recommendations based on their research. Among other things, the group called for: a clear definition of “qualified faller supervisor” as referred to in Section 26.22.1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation; a quality control process for employers to confirm compliance with the BCFTS (such as using a checklist periodically to ensure a faller is competent); and, a review of occupational first aid requirements for isolated falling conditions.

Bailey, who called for the study and organized the investigation team, says that a training method (dacum) related to the technical competence of falling supervisors is being worked on and is expected to be completed by the end of summer. Once there is a definition as to “what are the skills sets that supervisors need,” Mueller says, the council will “revisit” its current faller supervisor training program.

Bailey adds that WorkSafeBC also plans to undertake a “very intense audit system” in the future to examine the work of provincial fallers.


Careers | Contact Us | Top | Privacy Statement | Terms and Conditions | Contact Us | YouTube twitter facebook
Copyright © 2006-2019 BC Forest Safety Council.