Forestry fatalities in British Columbia increase for fourth consecutive year in 2013 to 11; death toll is well below 2005 high of 43, but industry officials concerned about increase from low of 4 in 2009

VANCOUVER, British Columbia , December 30, 2013 () – Another 11 loggers and truckers died in the B.C. forest sector this year, the fourth consecutive annual increase.

It is well below the 43 forestry workers that died on the job in 2005 - a death toll so high it created a public outcry and resulted in safety changes - but the creeping increase in fatalities, from a low of just four deaths in 2009, has not gone unnoticed within industry.

"The way the industry looks at it is we have kind of plateaued. And especially with the volume (of logging) coming back up, everybody wants to get back on a strong improvement trend," says B.C. Forest Safety Council CEO Reynold Hert.

As a result of the high death toll in 2005, industry and government decided that improving safety was a top priority. The council has played an active role since 2005, creating safety certification programs endorsed by the CEOs of major forest companies and the B.C. government. The council's board of directors includes industry, WorkSafeBC and union representation.

Thousands of logging contractors have been certified in the province and hundreds of fallers have taken safety-certification training.

In 2010, then-B.C. forests minister Pat Bell issued a challenge to the forest industry and workers to make 2011 the first year to have zero deaths in the forest sector.

That year, the numbers of forestry deaths increased to eight from six the year before. In 2012, there were 10 deaths.

This year four logging truck drivers have been killed, two after their trucks went off roads and two while they were outside their trucks.

Three equipment operators were also killed, including two grader operators and one loader operator. One of the grader operators jumped from the cab for an unknown reason, while another grader went off a road into a lake.

A tree faller was killed on Aug. 26. The Saltspring Island man was clearing a right of way off Meade Creek Road, near Lake Cowichan, when he was struck and killed by a falling tree.

A shake block cutter bucking a cedar tree was killed on Vancouver Island, and two forestry workers died in a float plane crash north of Port McNeill on their way to their work site.

Work is also underway to educate fallers on proper nutrition and hydration, and fatigue management, said Hert.

ghoekstra@vancouversun.com

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