Over 10 years after the pathway for arborists to tree felling compliance was made, industry has more or less waffled at the idea of meeting that bar.  Many tree business owners, supervisors and workers not happy to settle with regulatory non-compliance have gone one step further to circulate false interpretations of the regulation to clients, coworkers and colleagues. Ropes and mechanical advantage and "means of control" falsehoods continue to be floated, and will provide little meaning in an ensuing discussion where a WorkSafe Prevention Officer steps on site to stop work.  


Severe workplace injuries and deaths are a destructive force impacting dependents, relatives, friends, workplaces, and communities in many lasting ways.  The financial impact of one workplace accident factoring direct (emergency response, advanced health treatment, rehabilitation, retraining) and indirect costs (legal implications, longer term health implications to self and dependents, etc.) can be in the millions of dollars.  Workers' compensation premiums are rising because the rates of incident occurrence are not significantly decreasing while the costs of health care and legal expenses are always increasing.  The rates of fatal and severe injury-causing incidents resulting from the falling of trees continues to be high compared to other high-risk work activities. Falling incidents are not limited to forestry operations but also those deemed similar including for wildfire response, oil and gas, and tree services.  The Government was ultimately unsatisfied with industrys' lack of movement on the status-quo, and tapped WorkSafe to implement policy including Certification with support from industry not-for-profits such as the BC Forest Safety Council. 


How does that land on a practicing Arborist?  If your employer is asking you to perform work that you are not qualified to do (e.g. falling a tree that is larger than 15 cm diameter measured 30 cm from ground), it may be that everything goes fine.  Experience tells me that things can go sideways in tree work even with qualification, training, experience, and a rock-solid plan.  Being behind the wheel in a car accident having never obtained a driver's license puts you in an awkward position when the time comes to answer questions. 


When things go wrong, qualification goes much further to establish a worker's baseline competency than a worker or employer's personal assurances. Think of the BC Falling & Bucking Endorsement less as a restriction and more as a system to make our work practices defensible.  Within the Endorsement system are a few primary parts:


  • Verified hours of experience requirement to challenge CUA (3,657 hrs) or Arborist Technician (2,400 hrs) exam
  • Pre-requisite ITA Arborist or CUA Qualification to challenge BC Faller Training Standard Field Evaluation
  • Safe Work Procedures (OHSR Part 26.23-26.29, and the BC Faller Training Standard)
  • BC Faller Training Standard written examination
  • Scenario-based field evaluation by a Qualified Assesor
  • Mentoring requirement with a qualified person to re-challenge the BCFTS if unsuccessful


Will one more Arborist successful in obtaining the Falling and Bucking Endorsement make industry safer overall?  As the monthly incident reports reveal continued Certified Faller fatalities in the workplace, it's obvious that a certification alone is no guarantee against the hazards of our work place.  Endorsement might be better considered a tool that in addition to experience, continued practice, further training, making mistakes and applying those lessons learned are building individual resilience which depending on your personality could improve resilience in other workers around you.