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BC appoints safety coroner


January 24, 2006
By Pulp & Paper Canada

A staggeringly high death toll in the forestry industry has prompted the BC government to appoint a safety coroner …

A staggeringly high death toll in the forestry industry has prompted the BC government to appoint a safety coroner to investigate the situation. A total of 43 people died in the western province last year, while another 110 workers were injured. The figures add up to render BC the holder of the worst forestry safety record in all of Canada.

According to a report by the CBC, the number of loggers killed last year is roughly two and a half times what it was in 2004.

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The decision to hire a safety coroner was announced at the annual truck loggers convention, held in mid January, in BC. At the same time, Forest Minister Rich Coleman unveiled a new set of safety standards established to put unsafe companies out of business, the CBC reported. According to the plan, companies will be subjected to the investigation of auditors, who will analyze safety records, and employee training practices. Companies that pass inspection will benefit from a 5% discount on workers’ compensation payments. Should a company fail to pass inspection, it will be prohibited from working on Crown land.

The move to instate a safety coroner has the endorsement of the United Steelworkers, however, the union is calling for a more in-depth examination of the problem.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction they’re going to hire a coroner that’s dedicated to the forest industry,” the Prince George Citizen reported Steelworkers official Ron Corbeil as saying. “I would hope they start to look at some of these truck fatalities (in the Northern Interior) to uncover what are the systematic issues. Is it the hours of work, is it the push for production and the price rate (pay system)?”

At least 22 log truck drivers were killed on the job in the past ten years in northern BC, the Citizen reported.


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