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WorkSafeBC report details arborist's death in North Vancouver park

The man who was killed while topping a 40-metre tree lacked training and certification to provincial standards, according to a WorkSafeBC investigation
Memorial flowers rest on a fallen tree in North Vancouver’s Princess Park where an arborist was killed in a workplace incident in 2022. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

An arborist killed on the job while topping a tree in North Vancouver’s Princess Park lacked adequate training, certification and supervision, according to an investigation by WorkSafeBC.

The incident happened on Sept. 30, 2022. DC Tree Services had been contracted by the District of North Vancouver to remove five dangerous trees in the park, one of which had noticeable signs of rot at its base.

The arborist, whose name has not been released, determined it would make the most sense to climb about 24 metres up the 40-metre tree and cut the top down first. But topping the tree did not go as expected.

“The weight of the top portion, as it was falling, put excessive pressure on the rotten base of the tree. This pressure caused the base to snap and fall. The arborist was still tied into the stem of the tree and fell with the stem to the ground. The arborist sustained fatal injuries,” the report states.

The report notes that the work was being done on a statutory holiday and that Princess Park was crowded with visitors at the time. WorkSafeBC began their investigation that day.

The arborist had only just started working for the company three weeks earlier. Although he was the crew foreman at the time of the incident, he was lacking supervision when it came to tree assessment, dangerous trees, developing a climbing plan and the high-risk activity of hand falling, the investigation found.

Much of the investigation’s findings about the arborist’s training, experience and professional assessments were redacted from the report, but the investigator did note the man’s certification by the International Society of Arboriculture, which he received about a month earlier, is not one recognized in B.C.

“The worker assessments provided by DC Tree and the arborist’s past years of training and experience indicate that the arborist would have had sufficient training and experience to safely climb and top trees. However, the arborist did not have adequate training and experience to safely maintain directional control of dangerous trees and fall dangerous trees in a safe manner. The arborist was not trained to fall trees to a standard acceptable to WorkSafeBC and was not certified to a standard acceptable to WorkSafeBC,” the report states.

Immediately before the incident, the arborist had difficulty falling another tree, which eventually did come down, although not in the direction he intended – “a high-risk outcome putting both the arborist and the apprentice at risk of serious injury or death.”

“An effective system of supervision would have included worker assessments for all high-risk tasks and activities,” the report states. “Effective supervision ought to have recognized shortcomings in the arborist’s hand-falling skills, which might have resulted in additional training and/or restricting hand-falling tasks.”

DC Tree co-founder Shane Dorion offered a statement in response.

“We are currently working with WCB to increase the standard of safety within our company and our industry. DC Tree lost an important part of our family that day and are still grieving,” it read. “While this claim is still ongoing, we would like to respect [him] and the DC Tree family and not comment any further.”

DC Tree was on the District of North Vancouver’s list of pre-approved contractors for tree work, including in public parks, indicating they’d met the district’s requirements, however “the DNV did not ensure that the falling was being done by qualified and certified tree fallers.”

Following the release of the report, the District of North Vancouver director of parks Steffanie Warriner released a statement to the North Shore News.

“This was a terrible event that really affected our community. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by it. We take safety very seriously,” it read. “Based on the WorkSafe BC report regarding this event, we have further refined our safety protocols. We are committed to doing our part to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening again in our community.”

Typically, enforcement in the form of fines follows sometime after a WorkSafeBC investigation has found contraventions of provincial regulations. The size of the penalty is based on the size of the employer’s payroll but also on the nature of the violation and whether the same employer has a history of violations.

In a statement, the agency said enforcement in this case is “still being considered.”

“Every worker deserves to return home at the end of the day. We share our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and coworkers affected by this tragic incident,” it read.

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