The BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) and BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) allowing BCCSA COR certified companies to achieve SAFE certification with BCFSC in order to assist companies who wish to bid on forestry contracts.
According to the BCCSA, the process to develop the MOU started when the industry heard of new requirements by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for SAFE certification to qualify to bid on in-forestry projects.
"What we wanted to do was establish a process that was not overly bureaucratic," said Robert Moonen, BCFSC CEO. "We want to see contractors who are new to this industry set up for success."
Stakeholders anticipated there would need to be a fair process to manage the potential entry of new contractors who might be COR (Certificate of Recognition) certified, but not SAFE certified.
SAFE is an industry standard developed by those in the B.C. forestry sector and administered by the BCFSC. The program uses industry recognized audit protocols to improve participating companies' safety cultures and to evaluate their current safety programs.
Upon meeting the standard, companies receive SAFE certification numbers and are listed on the BCFSC website.
The MOU gives the industry a head start on the ministry's new requirements which will begin April 1.
Contractors interested in bidding on affected ministry contracts in April are encouraged to immediately begin preparing themselves to meet the standard by contacting the BCFSC, said Moonen.
The ministry also has decided to hold itself to the same standard, achieving SAFE certification last year. BC Timber Sales has applied for SAFE certification requirements for those bidding on contracts for almost seven years. For the ministry, expansion of SAFE certification requirements across the ministry fulfils an action item in B.C.'s forest sector competitiveness agenda.
Mike McKenna, executive director of BCCSA, said he first started working on the MOU after he was notified by the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association about its impact. Roadbuilders are the primary portion of the construction industry who do work in the forestry sector.
McKenna said he recognized the potential for "audit fatigue" and began working with the council on a solution.
"Over two years we managed to put together a process which served the members but didn't sacrifice safety," McKenna said.
Both organizations looked at each other's audit tools and determined there were significant similarities. However, there will be a requirement to take a course for several hours to learn about the unique risks associated with the forestry sector.
McKenna said the course could feature an online component. He also noted that the council has some differences in their interviews that will be built into the regular audit cycle.
"It is the most sensible solution possible," McKenna said. "We developed a process that is easier for the contractor."
He added that the MOU could make contracts accessible to a larger pool of contractors, making it also a win for the B.C. taxpayer.