WorkSafeBC does spring cleaning of forestry regulations

RICHMOND, B.C. — With a goal of improving its safety record, B.C.’s forest sector will be ushering in a wide range of new safety regulations in the spring 2008.

These new provisions address the changing nature of B.C.’s forest sector and aim to provide better protection to workers in the areas of prime contractor authority, supervision and planning, as well as increasing safety standards when working in proximity to machinery.

For log haulers, the new provisions outline equipment spec’s, loading and unloading practices, as well as addressing speed and impairment by fatigue.

At their December meeting, the Board of Directors of WorkSafeBC approved amendments to the forestry section of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, which ultimately led to an effective date of May 1.

The approved standards are the result of extensive consultations with workplace parties throughout 2006, culminating in public hearings in June 2007.

Submissions were received from all stakeholders in the industry, including employers, workers, unions, the Council of Forest Industries, the BC Forest Safety Council and the Ministry of Forests and Range.

The new standards aim to ensure prime contractors in the forestry sector have the necessary qualifications and the necessary authority to fulfill their legal responsibilities and that there be a falling supervisor for all manual falling activities.

“The Board of Directors required us to review the regulation as one of a number of initiatives focused on making the woods safer in response to the Forest Safety Task Force, which made its recommendations in 2004,” said Roberta Ellis, the WorkSafeBC vice-president who chaired the public hearing process.

Other initiatives by WorkSafeBC to make the woods safer have included the certification of fallers, recruitment of additional prevention and investigation officers, more inspections, and additional penalties where warranted.

“Despite encouraging news that the number of traumatic fatalities in forestry has been reduced by one-half since 2005 – the worst year on record, the goal of zero fatalities has not been reached,” said Ellis. “No one can be satisfied until that goal is met.”

The new regulations will be posted on WorkSafeBC’s website.

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