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On March 11, 2023, the BC SAFE Forestry Program surveyed the frequency and extent of access hazards silviculture contractors face in their worksites due to road deactivation, rehabilitation, or closure after harvesting.

The survey aimed to make recommendations to reduce these hazards, improve safety and productivity for silviculture crews, and cover access conditions over the last five years. The survey's scope covered all access conditions except for helicopter access, and respondents were encouraged to participate regardless of their experience with these hazards. 

What do we mean by “access hazards”? Some examples are any situation:

  • Where vehicles must severely pitch, roll, swerve, or skid to maintain progress;

  • Where the operator cannot maintain complete control of the vehicle, e.g gets stuck;

  • Where an emergency vehicle’s progress would increase the suffering and risk to an injured worker or significantly delay their transfer to emergency care;

  • Where workers have to walk or be flown in;

  • Requiring the rebuilding or reengineering of structures or grade for vehicles to pass;

  • Involving operating a vehicle outside of manufacturers’ specifications;

  • That makes workers feel unsafe or risks their well-being by increasing fatigue and distractions to their workday.

The following presents a summary of the survey results gathered from 58 respondents.


Among the 58 survey respondents

  • 8.62% were workers

  • 29.31% were crew supervisors

  • 51.72% were managers

  • 10.34% specified as "Other"

Over the last five years, 94.74% of the respondents reported that their crews had worked on worksites where access had been treated after the harvest, preventing safe and ready access for their crews, equipment, and supplies. This is now referred to as “The Work Site Situation”.



Out of 38 respondents, answers ranged from 10 to 5000 work sites, with many respondents estimating having worked at several hundred or even thousands of work sites. Several respondents expressed difficulty estimating the exact number, citing the lack of access and the diversity of contracts as complicating factors. Most respondents (61.11%) reported increased access hazards over the last five years, while only one (2.78%) reported a decrease. The remaining 36.11% of respondents reported that access hazards had stayed the same.


Out of 36 respondents, the extent of access hazards for silviculture contractors is considerable. Most respondents reported encountering access hazards regularly, with estimates ranging from 15% to 100% of sites worked. Most respondents reported encountering access hazards over 60% of the time, with some reporting as high as 100%. Several respondents expressed frustration with the safety of reclaimed roads, with some describing them as significantly dangerous and unsuitable for use, despite being marked as accessible.


Out of 35 respondents, answers ranged from 10 minutes to 150 workdays per season. Many respondents found this question difficult to answer, citing the variability of factors such as block size, terrain, and access conditions. Some respondents provided estimates in terms of days, with answers ranging from 1 to 30 days per worksite. Other respondents provided estimates of hours or minutes, with answers ranging from 0.2 to 8 hours per day spent on the worksite.


Of 34 respondents, the majority (50%) reported working in Cariboo, followed closely by Thompson Okanagan (52.94%).


Of 36 respondents, 52.78% reported working for a licensee, although they did not specify which one(s). 27.78% reported working for BCTS, 13.89% for MoF, and 5.56% selected "Other." No respondents reported working for the Alberta Government.


Question-Based Findings


The survey respondents provided a range of emergency response planning measures taken to ensure timely and safe emergency transportation, including providing radios to every worker, air transport arrangements for injured workers, modifying the worksite, bringing in extra first aid resources, refusing unsafe work, and having personal first aid kits on everyone. Many respondents mentioned having ERP that considers access and plan for air evac if necessary. Some also coordinated with local heli companies or used satellite phones or mobile-carrying devices in case of emergency. A few respondents mentioned experiencing difficulties arranging air transport or not having a clear plan.

Questions-Based Findings

The survey responses highlight that access to planting sites remains a significant issue, with many workers reporting injuries due to dangerous access. Clients are often not providing accurate information about access and not taking responsibility for leaving roads into the block. Many workers feel that quad access is an afterthought and that more consideration needs to be given to making access safe for all workers, including accurate information about the condition of quad trails and repercussions for clients if the information is inaccurate.

Some respondents suggest that the government should be responsible for guaranteeing helicopter availability if access is blocked. Additionally, some respondents noted the negative impact of access on wildlife habitats and the need for better communication and accountability from clients.

Respondents to the poll estimated over the last five years they have worked on thousands of deactivated roads throughout all of the province and nearly all of them thought it was unsafe.

This comment from one respondent sums it up:

“I always thought it was ridiculous. They keep the roads intact for every step of the way except planters. An example of where I work right now. Guys with heavy machinery are burning piles and are mandated to pull the bridges and deactivate on their way out. I need the road way more than they do. We [will] have to bring people in, we have hundreds of boxes [of trees] to deliver, and our planters are the ones in need of a swift evacuation if they hurt themselves. That’s without talking about the damage to ATVs or trucks trying to go through cross ditches or deactivated sections, or talking about the countless hours of trail-building for a road that was there before, or the hours and hours packing trees on our shoulders on a road, that again, existed before. Absolutely ridiculous. I’ve flipped a quad backward before in my younger years as a foreman and thought I would die, literally. You learn to do it safely for sure, but a lot of kids are running crews without experience and are pressured in delivering fast.”

The survey results were presented in the Spring to the Forest Industry Forum, a joint forest safety committee comprising WorkSafe, harvesting and licensee representatives, the BC Forest Safety Council, and the BC SAFE Forestry Program. The Forum members unanimously agreed to strike a working group to investigate and recommend changes to reduce hazards and improve road access management as soon as practicable. More to come.


A Long-Standing Industry Issue: Access Management & Road Deactivation

The squeaky wheel that just can't get the grease.

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