Blog Post #690 – Timber Firm Cited in Landslide

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

A ruling from forest safety auditors in British Columbia has determined that the actions of a timber company were partly to blame for a landslide that occurred two years ago. (2010)

The Forest Practices Board, which conducts audits and investigates how well the industry and government meet forestry standards, released in February, 2013, the findings of its investigation into a landslide at Laird Creek that took place in May, 2010, in the Kootenay Lake area.

The landslide caused damage to the water supply of about 100 homes nearby, the cause of which was partly determined to be from the logging practices BC Timber Sales prior to 2007. The Board concluded that the logging company developed an inherently unstable watershed supply on the slopes draining into the creek.

“The board was asked to examine three aspects of the incident: whether danger to the water supply was adequately addressed, whether a lack of due diligence or flaws in regulation contributed and what could be done differently to prevent a recurrence,” notes a statement from the Forest Practices Board. “The Board found that BC Timber Sales’ operational and technical practices were sound. Overall, the Board finds that (they) acted in a responsible manner after the slide event, though there was no legislation required for it to do so.”

While no workers were injured, the Board’s decision has raised the possibility of legislative changes to reduce the risk of future landslides. Much of WorkSafeBC regulated safety practices relate to hazards that have an immediate effect on a worker, such as obstructed visibility when logs are not stored properly in transit, which could lead to road accidents or runaway timber.

However, Shane Bowden, sales manager for the BC Timber Sales’ Kootenay division, says his company has since introduced changes to mitigate risky practices. “In the fall of 2012, BC Timber Sales fully rehabilitated the upper section of the Laird Creek Road to minimize the risk of any further landslide or erosion event attributable to the road system, which could impact down slope elements at risk, including domestic water quality and fish habitat.”

Bowden adds that his team has performed road rehabilitation by removing culverts, carrying out re-vegetation, setting up sediment traps and introducing a terrain stability model, which uses a risk management approach to determine the need for and the extent of a geotechnical review of the land. The results are then integrated into road construction plans to eliminate potential hazards.

My opinion

Here we have a dominate industry that needed to have better understood the potential for hazards and the need for controls. The damaged water supply to over 100 homes is an unacceptable result for any logging practice. This type of hazard had to have been taken into account prior to the work being done.

I am curious, to find out what type of legislative changes have been made to better protect future projects and the local water supply. BC is a leader in the lumber industry and it is, therefore, expected that changes needed should be coming from there.

Ontario may have concerns in this area as well and the group ‘Workplace Safety North’ would be a good place to start an investigation. They are an amalgamation of the following former WSIB funded agencies;

1) Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association
2) Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association
3) Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association

If your company is part of the logging industry in Ontario, then please make contact to ‘Workplace Safety North’ for more information. They are a valued resource.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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