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Workplace safety in BC Heavy and Primary Industries

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to stop near Lillooet BC to see my former co-workers from the BC Ministry of Forest – Fire Protection Services in action. Working in some of the world’s most difficult country, private helicopters and government fire fighters were working to hold back a fire that was almost impossible to contain. I’ve attached a short video of the helicopters re-filling their Bambi-buckets with fire retardant before returning to the fire.

Unfortunately this weekend one of the helicopters did not make the round trip. It plunged into the Fraser River and the pilot went missing. Given the power of the river and the search that went on, it is presumed the pilot has died. This is a tragedy that has happens to helicopter pilots and workers all too often. Last year two employees of one of our customers, a helicopter pilot and a bystander were killed when their helicopter crashed in a residential area.
Some will say Helicopter accidents are unavoidable and there are too many factors that can contribute to a crash. It is a difficult business and I feel fortunate to have flown with some of the world’s best pilots throughout BC, the Yukon, Alberta and Ontario. I have vivid memories of the many work trips made in these powerful machines. Given the number of factors that can endanger a helicopter and its crew I have to say too many chances were taken with bad weather, overloaded machines and over worked pilots.
This accident and all workplace accidents should be remembered by all employers and job hunters when thinking of joining a company. Questions about safety should be asked by both parties in interviews ensuring safety is a priority from the beginning to the safe end of the relationship.
Helicopter safety is a continuing problem but if everyone has an attitude that safety is the highest priority and than it can and will improve.