Faller shortage results from certification program

  • Nov. 29, 2006 6:00 a.m.

By Charlotte Tarver–Logging is considered a dying industry in much of BC and the number of jobs is shrinking. Yet, there’s one forest job in high demand on the islands. A certified professional coastal tree faller is hard to find these days.
“If you’re a faller, you’re laughing. There’s such a shortage of fallers, it’s absolutely crazy,” says Dave Dickson of KED Contracting in Sandspit. “I’ve never seen it like this.” Why a shortage for a job that pays $500 and up a day here and up to $650 in other parts of BC? In the past, fallers trained in the field but there wasn’t a training standard across the province for the high-risk work. Now, anyone wanting to work as a professional faller must be certified. In November 2004, the government and forest industry implemented a certification program. The certification of 3,350 fallers throughout BC has been complex and difficult, according to the BC Forest Safety Council, the group that runs the program. New entrants must take a 30-day training course that costs $9,500. It was designed by the Workers’ Compensation Board, the logging industry, the BC Forest Safety Council, fallers and others to set a province-wide standard for skills, knowledge and safety. One goal is to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries in the falling profession. “It’s a stepping stone. Danger has always been there but now we’re working in more difficult places, in steeper terrain,” said Mr. Dickson. After completing the program, a faller trainee must work in the field alongside an experienced, certified faller for up to 6-months and then pass a 3-part one-day exam. Uncertified but experienced fallers can challenge the 30-day course and take the one-day exam that includes a skills evaluation, a written exam and a field evaluation by a qualified trainer. The exam costs $900. “There weren’t enough instructors at first, says Gary Banys of BC Forest Forest Safety Council in Nanaimo and the program coordinator. “Qualified instructors are top quality long-time veteran fallers who had to score 90-percent or better on skills assessments, written evaluations and in-the-field demonstrations.” Another issue is there haven’t been many courses offered in remote areas of BC. People from Haida Gwaii who want to take the course must go off-island, to Nanaimo or Vancouver to take it. “I am planning the 2007 calendar for courses, there is some discussion about a course on Haida Gwaii if there is enough demand,” Mr. Banys said. “There are now two qualified supervising trainers from the Islands.” Three instructors give the course to 6 to 8 trainees with most trainees in their 20s and 30s. “Originally, fallers could be grandfathered in, but not everyone registered. Now, everyone realizes they must register and take the exam or the course,” says faller Terry Husband of Tlell. “Initially, there was some resistance by older fallers to getting certification,” continues Mr. Banys. “It is hard for older, experienced fallers to be watched and evaluated by people with less experience.” According to Bruce Clark of WCB’s regional manager in Prince George, “there has been some frustrations as we have seen older fallers going back to old habits after certification.” To enter the certification process, a person must first register. “We get about 3 to 4 applications per day to register in the program,” said Wendy Gaskill of the BC Forest Safety Council, “there are 100 people registered and waiting to take the training course or exam.” It is illegal to be a faller without being registered or certified. WCB will take enforcement action against uncertified fallers and their employers, which can include costly fines. Upon completion of the course, every faller who wants to work has a job waiting.” There are falling contractors and companies in a bidding war and every student who passes the course has gotten a job,” says Mr. Banys. “There is a shortage of fallers in the coastal logging regions of BC, including the Queen Charlotte Islands.” To complicate the matter, a potential faller must certify as a coastal or an interior faller – it’s two different exams (different terrain, timber types, conditions , weather – all factors that one must have experience in understanding.) “Certification created a change in the industry and we are better for it. To date, there are no injuries for trainees,” Mr. Banys explained. This is good news in an industry that in 2005 had one of its worst years for fatalities.
Mr. Banys is taking with interior Native bands which want to get their own trainers certified and hold courses in their communities to enable local people to fill jobs in native-owned tree logging operations. With new community forests coming to the islands, the hope is to provide long-term employment for islanders.
More information is available from the BC Forest Safety Council, 877-741-1060 or Marion Knost, Malaspina College, 250-740-6364.

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii seabird conservation highlighted at international congress

Bird Studies Canada’s David Bradley is co-convening a symposium on biosecurity for island species

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Ferry sailing delayed after divers check Northern Adventure

Divers called in to check propeller shaft, sailing to Haida Gwaii now 140 minutes behind

Haida Gwaii fishery staff gear up for marine mammal rescues

Haida fishery guardians and DFO fishery officers better equipped to rescue marine mammals

Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

More young people are flocking to birdwatching than ever, aided by social media, digital photography

Former Trump aide Paul Manafort found guilty of eight charges

A mistrial has been declared for the other 10 charges against him

Canada’s team chasing elusive gold medal at women’s baseball World Cup

Canada, ranked No. 2 behind Japan, opens play Wednesday against No. 10 Hong Kong

Former B.C. detective gets 20 months in jail for kissing teen witnesses

James Fisher, formerly with Vancouver police department, pleaded guilty to three charges in June

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark criticizes feds for buying pipeline

The $4.5 billion purchase of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline second worst decision, she said

‘Takes more courage to fail’: B.C. ultra-marathon swimmer reflects on cancelled try at record

Susan Simmons halted her swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back because of hypothermia

Animals moved from B.C. Interior shelters to make way for pets displaced by wildfires

The Maple Ridge SPCA houses animals to make space for pets evacuated from B.C.’s burning interior.

$21.5 million medical pot plant to be built in B.C.

The facility is to be built in Princeton

Spokane man enlists 500,000+ box fans to blow wildfire smoke back to B.C.

Spokane man Caleb Moon says he’s had enough with smoky skies from B.C.’s forest fires blanketing his city

Most Read