Safety Advisory Foundation for Education & Research

SAFER Develops Young and New Sawmill Worker Orientation Program

The Safety Advisory Foundation for Education and Research, SAFER for short, was created through broad negotiations between the IWA Canada (now United Steelworkers) and FIR on the coast and the IFLRA in the southern interior for the 1988-1991 master collective agreements in both regions.

SAFER continues to be jointly managed by USW, FIR, and the IFLRA where the industry and the union enjoy equal representation. The SAFER funds investigations, studies and the development of research and educational materials designed to identify both immediate and potential health and safety hazards or conditions. As well SAFER assists in the development of work systems and procedures which will alleviate and remove safety and health hazards.

In 2014 members of the SAFER Council participated in the coroner’s inquest into the death of a young sawmill worker. The young worker was part of a graveyard clean-up crew that worked on week-ends.

One of the recommendations that the coroners’ jury made was directed to WorkSafeBC and the forest industry.

The recommendation was to review and research with industry new training styles/curriculum for young/new workers.

The rationale for this recommendation was that the jury heard evidence that revealed the students found the training somewhat abstract and challenging as it was initially based on materials on paper. Subsequent orientation tours were helpful as they included a direct visual observation of various mill features. It was heard that computerized video means of training may well prove more effective.

We know starting a first job, changing to a new job, or re-entering the workforce is both an exciting and risky period for new and young workers. Exposure to workplace hazards for possibly the first time makes this new and young worker group especially vulnerable to injury.

While a comprehensive orientation and training program is required under section 3.23 of the Regulation, it’s also essential to helping workers start their jobs off right. Investing in training your workers can result in higher productivity, raised morale, and a stronger sense of loyalty to your firm. It’s an investment that makes good business sense.

The SAFER Council working with WorkSafeBC and Tolko industries wanted to develop something that is easily accessible with no cost that can assist all sawmill employers in the province.

This orientation program is intended to help you:

  • Meet the regulatory requirements for new and young worker orientation and training
  • Become familiar with our many web- and technology-based tools and resources to engage new and young workers
  • Provide direction on delivering the Orientation Presentation and remaining orientation training requirements.
  • Make your new and young worker orientation and training programs more effective and engaging

SAFER Council union cochair, Pat McGregor said, “we see young workers entering the workforce who communicate a lot differently than when I started in the industry. It is important that new and young workers get their job duties, rights and responsibilities explained to them in a way that they understand”. He added, “if workers don’t understand the job or don't feel comfortable doing it, it is important that they report it to their supervisor immediately”.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation defines a "young worker" as any worker under age 25. A "new worker" can be any age and includes those who are new to the workplace or location, or facing new hazards.

SAFER Council management cochair, Ryan Johnson said, “this orientation package is just the beginning. We expect that once the workers are given the overview-they will be given further job task specific orientation on the plant floor and demonstrate to the supervisor that they understand the task”.

The program which can be found on the SAFER website is designed to be delivered with company specific materials and has a guidebook complete with questions that can be followed for the most effective delivery.

The SAFER Council is working on a new and young worker orientation program for the harvesting sector and hope to have it completed something in 2018.

View Our SAFER New Worker Module.

View our New Worker Orientation Guidebook