BC Forest Safety Ombudsman Recommends Significant Changes For Provincial Resource Roads

February 6, 2008

As a result of the first independent, comprehensive review of resource roads in BC, the province’s Forest Safety Ombudsman is calling for significant changes to enhance safety and protect the lives of the workers and public who use the roads.  Ombudsman Roger Harris says addressing safety issues on resource roads is a shared responsibility which will require cross-government and cross-industry support and participation.

No Longer the Road Less Travelled, Harris’ second report as Ombudsman, comes after five of the 12 fatalities in the forest sector in 2007 occurred on resource roads.  In addition, Harris says the largest number of calls to his office involve issues surrounding resource roads.  He explains the roads have become a complex off-highway road network with users from various sectors and communities.  The increase in use and the lack of clarity over who is responsible for the roads has led to considerable safety challenges and issues requiring attention.

Harris’ report falls on the heels of auditor general John Doyle’s report Preventing Fatalities and Serious Injuries in BC Forests: Progress Needed.  Doyle called on government and industry to overcome significant challenges in order to eliminate deaths and serious injuries in the sector.  His findings support Harris’ recommendations concerning resource roads and further emphasize the need for change.

“It’s time something was done to fix this,” says Harris.  “The death of log truck driver Joseph Leroux led to a coroner’s inquest last year which highlighted many problems surrounding resource roads.  What our report is trying to do is provide some guidance and potential solutions for dealing with those problems.”

Harris notes with 400,000 kilometres of resource roads in the province, looking to a single regime to deal with road issues is unrealistic.  One of Harris’ key recommendations is to create Road Safety Management Groups (RSMG) or bodies of stakeholders who are responsible for managing a specific resource road network. These groups would include representatives from appropriate industries, government ministries and the public.  The RSMG would jointly make decisions and implement all actions concerning road safety issues including design, construction, maintenance, safe driving practices, signage, driver education and allocation of resources. 

Many resource roads, like Bamfield Road on Vancouver Island, serve as one of, if not the only, access route to and from communities in this province.  In his report, Harris calls for a new public highway designation for resource roads that serve as primary or secondary access routes to communities in BC.  He says this designation needs to have clearly defined standards for construction, maintenance, safety and enforcement.

“I applaud the recommendation calling for public highway designations for certain resource roads as it deals directly with safe driving conditions,” says Stefan Ochman, regional director of electoral area “A” (Bamfield) of the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District. “Forest companies have maintained the Bamfield Road to industrial standards for decades, but in recent yearsthese standards have deteriorated to the point that the road is unsafe not only for forestry workers but for all users."

A third recommendation builds not only on the auditor general’s report but also on Harris’ last report into training and certification in the industry.  Harris recommends truck drivers be certified and that certification extend to people who drive light-vehicles, such as pick-up trucks, ATV’s and four wheel drive vehicles.

In all, the Ombudsman made 17 safety-related recommendations in his report, dealing with matters ranging from calling on WorkSafeBC to address issues of cycle time to exploring substance abuse in the sector.

To find out more information about the BC Forest Safety Ombudsman and his second review and report, visit www.bcforestsafe.org

The Office of the Forest Safety Ombudsman was established in 2006 to enhance safety in the BC forest sector by becoming a safe, confidential and persuasive agent for raising and reviewing safety concerns throughout the sector and facilitating impartial and timely resolution of safety issues.  The Forest Safety Ombudsman is appointed and funded by the forest industry through the BC Forest Safety Council.

The BC Forest Safety Council is a not-for-profit society dedicated to promoting forest health and safety.  It was founded and is supported by all major forestry organizations in BC and works with forestry employers, workers, contractors and the provincial government and agencies to implement changes necessary to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries in the forest sector.

For more information:
Roger Harris
BC Forest Safety Ombudsman
604 312 0177

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