By Jim Stirling
Silviculture and associated consulting services occupy a distinct ecosystem within the forest industry. It makes sense therefore that for health and safety programs to be most effective they should be tailored to fit the sector’s changing activities and operating realities.
The Western Forestry Contractors’ Association (WFCA) set out recently to gain an insight into how the silviculture sector has evolved and where the health and safety programs for it need to reflect the changes identified.
“We looked at different models on how we might do that,” recalled Jordan Tesluk. “We decided to do more in-field work and meet with people in the sector in their work environment in an informal way.”
The result was an exercise in communication and consultation which began during the 2017 silviculture season with Tesluk hitting the road as the WFCA’s first in-field forestry safety advocate.
The WFCA membership is comprised of people and companies involved with activities like forest engineering, timber cruising, timber supply analyses, seedling production, silviculture services, tree planting, stand tending like brushing and spacing, and wildfire management services.
Companies working in the sector generate more than $500 million in annual revenues, according to the WFCA. The association is the result of a 2017 fusion between the Consulting Foresters of B.C. and the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association. The organizations believe the newly combined WFCA will create a more comprehensive voice for the sector in its dealings with governments and industry. The development of safety programs is one of three key areas of focus for the new WFCA, along with business practices and policy advocacy.
Tesluk was a sound choice to help chart a course for a responsive forestry safety program, with 15 years’ experience as a tree planter on his resume. He said he made about 20 visits to contractors and organizations during 2017, both in the field and in their offices. “It worked very successfully” he said. “No one said no.”
On each occasion, Tesluk delivered to his hosts binders containing pertinent safety and training information. And, as importantly, he talked with them and listened to their comments and suggestions for improvements. “It’s about getting people in conversation,” he summarized.
The diversity among the WFCA’s membership and the need to close couple health and safety programs to the realities of a specific job is well illustrated by looking at the tree planting fraternity, suggested Tesluk. Traditionally, silvicultural services like tree planting are seasonal, non-unionized with a piece rate payment format. And that, he believes, introduces a whole different set of pressures.
The harvesting sector is highly mechanized these days but in a tree planting or silvicultural camp, working with motorized equipment is pretty much limited to pick-up trucks and chain and brushing saws. But physically, the work of a tree planter is very demanding and repetitive.
Then there’s the worker experience level to consider, he continued. “It’s more a transitional job than a career for most.” Most tree planters only return for three or four seasons, with a turnover of at least 20 per cent 30 per cent each year. It means health and safety training programs must be geared from scratch for the planting newcomers to the appropriate updates for those with more experience.
“The safety measures also have to be applied under the pressures of production,” he cautioned.
The experience of supervisors represents another variable in health and safety program delivery. “They may not have much experience,” said Tesluk. Then there’s the size factor of the tree planting contractor. “The larger silvicultural companies get more attention from the enforcement agencies while the smaller ones can often miss out.” Tesluk is referring to operations with six to 20 people with operating budgets that might not stretch to offering complete safety and training packages. “I try to visit them, find out what they might be missing (on the health and safety front) and try to fill the gap,” he added.
Tesluk said he visited a couple of First Nations contractors during his initial year as the in-field forestry safety advocate. “First Nations communities play a very important role in seasonal silvicultural work. It’s important they do it safely right from the beginning,” he continued.
Tesluk was gearing up for the 2018 round of visits to sector contractors this summer to learn more about their safety requirements. “This is a new approach to building relationships between the field and the groups that drive safety program development in the industry,” he said. The goal is to make the various work sites for the silviculture sector safer—and keeping them that way.
On the Cover:
Hannah Dehoog of Smithers, B.C., is catching a lot of attention in the logging community. It’s not just her engaging presence on social media, but her determination and skill as a young female heavy equipment operator working in a decidedly male dominated industry. Read all about Dehoog and the logging work she is doing beginning on page 8 of this issue. (Cover photo courtesy of Tigercat).
Safety evolving with silviculture sector
The Western Forestry Contractors’ Association set out recently to gain an insight into how the silviculture sector has evolved—and where health and safety programs might need to be changed, to reflect that evolution.
There is a place for young women in Canada’s forest industry, and B.C.’s Hannah Dehoog is proof of that. She loves being in the bush operating logging equipment, and has run everything from skidders to leveling feller bunchers, doing steep slope work.
Big B.C. mill investments
The San Group, which recently acquired a mill operation on Vancouver Island, has some ambitious spending plans for its B.C. sawmill and reman operations, including adding a small log mill operation, with HewSaw equipment.
Dealing with the aftermath of forest fires—at the sawmill
B.C. forest company Tolko Industries is successfully handling fire salvaged timber from last year’s massive forest fires, thanks to some changes at their mill operations.
Tackling the tough job of fire salvage
Last summer’s forest fires in B.C. created a lot of salvage work for forest companies including Tolko Industries. But just as Tolko’s employees and contractors were up to the task of fighting the fires, they’re also up to the tough job of salvaging the fire-affected timber.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and Alberta Innovates.
The Last Word
Tony Kryzanowski says the forest industry needs a better communications approach for advocating wood-based alternatives in the battle against plastic.