British Columbia Forest Sector Industry Increasingly Hazardous

Recent statistics show that every year in British Columbia, 41 workers in the forest product manufacturing industry suffer an amputation while working.

Each year in British Columbia, approximately 41 workers in the forest product manufacturing industry suffer an amputation while working. Another seven lose their lives each year.

These statistics show that there is an immediate need to prevent the alarming growth in workplace accidents among this industry, Manny Gomes, prevention program manager for forest products for the B.C. Workers' Compensation Board (WCB), said in a statement on Dec. 23, 1999.

Recent statistics show the number of workplace accidents in the forest products manufacturing industry are increasing.

The number of accepted short term disability claims has increased 7 percent, from 2,174 in 1998 to 2,327 in the first nine month of 1999.

"This trend is unacceptable to the Board," said Gomes. "Companies must take ownership of this problem. That may mean implementing safety orientation sessions, providing supervision training, or any number of other health and safety initiatives."

Gomes has contacted industry leaders to request input on a strategy designed to reduce the number and severity of injuries.

He is hopeful the strategy will encourage industry to take ownership of health and safety issues, achieve a greater level of compliance with health and safety requirements, and reduce the number of accidents and costs in the sector.

Gomes' call-to-action coincides with the release of a WCB report "Forest Products Manufacturing in British Columbia."

The report shows that workers in some sectors of the industry are injured at a rate that is double the provincial average.

In one sector, the shake and shingle industry, the rate of injury is as high as 33; nearly six times the provincial average for all industries of 5.4.

Gomes said that while many industries within the forest products manufacturing sector are drastically reducing their injury rates, others, including the shake and shingle sector, are recording injury rates that are simply unacceptable.

"Employers should review the orientation, training and supervision of workers in their operations, particularly for workers new to a job, to determine if they are effective in preventing injuries," said Gomes.

Copies of the report are available through the WCB Films and Poster Section by calling (800) 661-2112.

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