WFCA held a three-day conference with the third day devoted to mainly internal matters. On Day One, during the afternoon sessions, the stage belonged to the BC Forest Safety Council and other speakers on the subject of safety in the silviculture industry.

Mike McAlonan discussed the Industrial Athlete Model for tree planters, timber cruisers, and nursery workers. The discussion centred on how the industry is developing preventative strategies and implementing physiotherapy innovations.

Noel Simpson BC Forest Safety Council went through FIRS App, Forest Industry Reporting System, which is an app for  recording and management of safety incidents in the field.

On android the incident report (record) to be sent to the Supervisor Queue is the following:  

When did the incident occur? 
What was the project?
Who was involved in the incident?
Explain what happened. 
Show evidence in photos.
What could have been done to prevent this incident?

Cherie Whelan, Director for Safe Companies, BCFSC, talked about FIRS from the field supervisor point of view. "Reporting incidents into the system works to improve risk data towards preventing accidents."

At the BCFSC, SAFECo is, "SAFE Companies started from a need to measure and certify safety practices in the forestry industry in BC. The Forest Safety Task Force Report in 2004 recommended pre-qualification, requiring companies to show a commitment to safety in advance of obtaining forestry contracts. 

"SAFE certification is administered by the BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) and is designed to assist organizations in improving their safety performance to at least a minimum industry standard and to evaluate company safety programs using industry recognized audit protocols."

Health and safety at some companies is sometimes ad hoc based on lack of dedicated personnel. Safeco Registration does make demands on time especially when there are so many reporting streams and record-keeping demands, and no dedicated safety resource personnel. Reporting data tends to get scattered and lost, while the audit for certification requires documentation.

Check this area of the BCFSC website to see the process for certification 

Tina Daye represented Northern Society for Domestic Peace to discuss a 2021 year in review and she delivered her report in the form of minutes. Surveys and roundtables were recalled, and the human resources dialogue was discussed with respect to tree planters.

Camps and jobs are peopled by both genders and therefore the industrial tree planter operations pay close heed to the safety and physical security of all personnel, including with regards to sexual harassment or assault.

BSFSC took on the Camp Assault Mitigation Project. The organization makes a lot of documentary resources available for free. 

Check their website 

Ryan Zapisocki and Richard King discussed the prevalence of danger trees in silviculture. Over the course of 2021, they held forums for sharing of best practices on dealing with danger trees, training and education for the entire workforce, and the during the conference it was noted that UNBC teaches danger tree material in their forestry program. Danger trees are encountered in forest degradation, decadent forests, areas of Mountain Pine Beetle destruction, big fires, and clear cuts where silviculture is exposed to trees that are unstable in their replanting endeavors.

Day Two Morning Sessions

Discussions began with the morning's first theme of The Connections Between Climate Change, Natural Disasters, and Land Management.

First Nations Emergency Services Society (FNESS) presenter Larry Price said First Nations communities across the province are being prepared to fight fire and prepare the forests for either treatment or suppression of wildfires. He said there has been a lot of interaction with First Nation communities about their preparedness, and discussions about training and employment to fight fires. The general knowledge sharing involves new technology and the pillars of emergency management

Carbon sequestration and measurements of fuel loads in forests are being explored. Mapping Structure Vegetation and Built-in Home ignition Zone to Support identification of Risk and Projected Cost for Mitigation

Werner Kurz and Cliff Chapman hosted questions with John Betts, WFCA Executive Director, and Kurz said landscaping and management of lands is going to be done with greater planning and less emphasis on increasing logging quotas. Chapman says natural disasters are having significant impact on economy which the public doesn't understand. Risk prevention and fire fighting strategy requires planning, and all the problems need to be examined.

FIRESMART discipline is necessary, Betts said, all of society's effort and collaboration is required in the face of daunting issues of climate change and increased fire damages. 

Theme 2, morning, Day Two,  WFCA asked,  What's going on with the weather?

Matt MacDonald  BC Wildfire Service meteorologist said, "To say 2021 was an exceptional season is," an understatement. The news streams were full of terminology that made people wonder, including Atmospheric River, Heat Dome, and the plethora of fire stats. The 2021 challenges included ongoing pandemic restrictions, but fire weather, the heat dome, had set the stage for the summer and made it hard to keep up."

Evacuation orders were based on large wildfires burning close to infrastructure and towns. Lytton was burned to the ground. 

Forecasting something like what arrived is always difficult, says MacDonald. Factors in forecasting include antecedent conditions, how much snow on middle and upper elevations, these factors start the season. "How much springtime rainfall? Well, March, April, and May 2021 saw the lower regions very dry leading up to summer. Low rainfall, sometimes 20 percent of normal last year meant the Southern Interior all the way to the coast and Vancouver Island had very dry conditions."

What is the summer forecast going to look like in 2022?  These forecasts have limited useability. Is it going to be wetter than normal? Three months outlooks have tremendous leeway but the possibility for 2022 are dry in the south, possibly wetter than normal in coastal and northern BC. Forecasts are very difficult to rely upon. We can rely better on landscape memory including things like prolonged droughts and the deep organic layer dryness, says MacDonald.

As for what the heat dome is, this is a meandering jetstream that draws the heat, and 2021 had historic heat from this heat dome, long duration, no air circulation, ever-rising temperatures in all areas, with temperature and relative humidity way down in 2021 producing desert like dryness.  

The three day period of June 30 to July 2 saw 225,000 lightning strikes; trace amounts of rainfall to accompany thunderstorms, 199 new lightning caused fire starts and 219,000 hectares burned which was about one-quarter the total hectares burned in 2021. Lightning was continuous through the summer and accompanied by zero moisture. The lightning was higher in terms of years with most strokes of lightning.

MacDonald reported that Mother Nature gave BC a break by the middle of August and a return to normal occurred through September with a host of wet conditions. The result was a loss of a lot of slope stability and then intense rainfall resulted in erosion and wet conditions in high to extreme levels.

Atmospheric Rivers are also known as Pineapple Expresses and have always been with us, says MacDonald. "They are not wide, but they are very long (5000km) drawn up from subtropic resources. Those with low intensity are beneficial, drinking water comes from these, but intensity and variation can surpass a water basin's ability to absorb all the rainfall.

Antecedent conditions led to November floods that were dramatic in their destructive effects. "It's not a matter of if but when and that's the way to approach it from a planning perspective."

So the forecast? "Warmer than normal is the rule for 2022 and not likely a repeat of the heat dome."

BACKGROUND -- Pandemic Issues and Concerns Leading up to the WFCA 2022 Conference: 

This novel coronavirus continues to be novel. Omicron, the latest variant in our ongoing acquaintance with the Greek alphabet, has the pandemic in its most infectious surge yet as we approach our third forestry field season.

For two years the forestry sector has navigated successfully in keeping camps and crews mostly virus-free. Now it appears inevitable workers will infect or get infected at work. The vaccines will mitigate this. 

But the possible mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers (some employers have mandated vaccines) on some crews is not without its complications. 

Meanwhile, these considerations are set against evolving public health mandates and measures that are necessarily changing to match the surprises COVID-19 keeps generating. 

In order to help make sense of these uncertainties the BC SAFE Forestry Program is  holding workshops to update employers and offer advice on how to work with the current rules while keeping their crews safe, their businesses solvent, and their work uninterrupted. 

WFCA  called on industry players to join back together with  colleagues to discuss the issue of COVID-19 management in the 2022 season. Over the past two years, the forestry contractors and silviculture industry has fared exceptionally well in terms of managing the risk of COVID-19, with only a small number of cases affecting members.

This has been directly a result of unity and cooperation in the industry in developing effective strategies that serve the needs of the unique workforce. Even though companies will continue to adopt different policies suitable to their personnel and circumstances, there will undoubtedly be benefits from a careful review of health orders and the exchange of ideas to help tree planters through the coming season.

Freelance Written by Malcolm 'Mack' McColl Feb 12. 2022


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WFCA had their second annual virtual conference, Feb. 9 to 11, and by the looks of it, the organizers are good at doing virtual meetings.

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