Improving the safety of resource access roads in British Columbia’s coastal forest industry Wickman, Chris
The forest industry has historically exhibited one of the highest rates of fatalities and serious injuries within the province of British Columbia. From 1997 to 2006, the forest sector averaged a record of 92 serious injuries and 22 fatalities per year (Office of the Auditor General, 2008). During this time span, it should be noted that 43 fatalities and 110 serious injuries were reported in 2005; which brought the unsafe work practices of the industry under significant government criticism (Forest Safety Task Force, 2004). In response to the unacceptably high rates of serious injuries and fatalities, the Office of the Auditor General (AG) conducted an independent review of safety in the forest sector. The 2008 AG report identified many issues contributing to unsafe work practices. Two major recommendations were made: to improve the current attitudes toward worker safety and produce a more unified approach to the regulation of safety in the forest sector. The frequency and severity of unsafe practices in the forest sector varies significantly by worker occupation and production phase. This report will present ideas, plans and activities which address on-the-ground safety of one specific phase of harvesting. Specifically, the underlying cause for unsafe hauling and road use will be examined. Recommendations and measures to improve hauling and road use will also be discussed. There are many physical limitations of log hauling that are being pushed to the limit of worker safety. The attitudes around harvest planning and road design and construction standards, as well as on-the-ground work need to be improved if logging roads are to be safely located in complex, steep terrain. Road maintenance, standardized communications and increased safety audits and enforcement of standards are also discussed. Government policy could change standards for the safety of workers, but cannot change the attitudes of the workers and planners. Standards such as road building and truck loading limits could undoubtedly improve worker safety. There are currently many projects addressing several aspects of safety in the woods and on resource access roads. However, changes to road use standards, improved road construction techniques and stronger government regulations and audits require one more key element to shift the forest sector away from its dangerous safety record. Ultimately, education of forest workers about these improvements is needed to foster an understanding and a realization that the BC forest industry can offer a safe work environment for all its labor force.
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