Shifting weather increases risk on BC roads but crashes, injuries can be prevented. Winter tires help, and they’re required as of October 1 on most highways.
Fall’s arrival signals the start of BC’s most dangerous driving season. Employers and supervisors need to prepare now and plan ahead to keep employees safe when they drive for work, the annual Shift into Winter campaign recommends.
More than 39% of all work-related crashes in the province resulting in injury and time off the job occur from November to February, according to WorkSafeBC statistics. Crashes are the leading cause of traumatic work-related deaths in BC.
“Winter is Mother Nature’s ultimate road test,” says campaign spokesperson Trace Acres, program director for the non-profit Road Safety at Work. “Conditions such as freezing temperatures, rain, snow, black ice, and reduced daylight hours can present serious challenges for all drivers, regardless of how much experience they have.”
The Shift into Winter campaign, supported by the Winter Driving Safety Alliance, starts this month with a province-wide focus on employers. It expands to address all drivers on October 1 – the same day the BC law requiring vehicles to use winter tires on most highways kicks in. Shift into Winter aims to reduce the number of winter-related crashes, injuries, and deaths on BC roads.
Employers are legally responsible for the safety of their employees when they drive for work. This applies to full-time, part-time, and occasional drivers who use either their employer’s vehicle or a personal vehicle on the job.
“Most crashes are preventable,” says Acres. “The best way for employers to help keep people safe and meet their responsibilities is to start preparing for winter now and plan ahead. Waiting until the first storm hits is too late.”
A 2021 survey done for Road Safety at Work showed that only 19% of BC employers provide winter driver training to employees who drive for work. Only 38% of employers had a policy for driving in winter or inclement weather. Just under half of employers – 47% – ensure workers evaluate road, weather, and traffic conditions to determine if conditions are safe before they begin driving.
Start with winter driving policy and training
Shift into Winter recommends employers have a winter driving policy and provide winter driver training to employees. “Those are the foundations of a winter road safety plan,” Acres says.
Organizations of any size can use Shift into Winter’s free templates and other resources, including an Employer’s Tool Kit and the online course Winter Driving Safety for Employers and Supervisors. Everyone who completes the course and an exit survey by December 16 will be entered in a draw for a gift certificate for a set of winter tires (value up to $1,000), donated by Kal Tire. For details, visit ShiftIntoWinter.ca/online-course/.
Shift into Winter recommends employers and supervisors also:
Prepare your employees
Educate and train your drivers on their legal rights and responsibilities and your organization’s winter driving safety procedures. Ensure they are aware of the hazards they may be exposed to while driving and have the equipment and supervision needed to keep themselves safe. Have a policy to determine when driving is necessary and when it can be postponed, how to drive to the conditions, and what to do in the event of an emergency. Make sure drivers know when and how to safely and properly install chains or other approved traction devices.
Prepare your vehicles
Conduct a pre-season maintenance check-up. Winterize all vehicles used for work by installing a set of 4 matched winter tires in good condition with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm (5/32”). Tires with a 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol offer the best traction on snow, ice, and in cold weather. Make sure drivers know when and how to safely and properly install chains or other approved traction devices. Between October 1 to April 30 commercial vehicles with 11,794 kg licensed gross vehicle weight (GVW) and greater must carry tire chains on designated highways. These include mountain passes and rural routes in high snowfall areas.
Winter driving safety is smart business, Acres says. Preventing the immeasurable personal and societal costs of crashes also means preventing injuries that make staff shortages worse. It can help and attract and retain employees by showing that your organization values its people. Fewer crashes also translate into lower insurance and repair costs.
Visit ShiftIntoWinter.ca for more information and tools for employers and supervisors.
Gord Woodward, Communications manager
Road Safety at Work
About the Winter Driving Safety Alliance
The Winter Driving Safety Alliance is a cross-section of public, private, and non-profit organizations committed to working together to improve safe winter driving behaviours and practices in BC. Members are: Ambulance Paramedics of BC; Automotive Retailers Association; BCAA; BC Forest Safety Council; BC Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association; BC Trucking Association; City of Kelowna; City of Vancouver; Concrete BC; CoreCode Safety and Compliance; Government of BC; Insurance Corporation of BC; Island Equipment Owners Association; Justice Institute of British Columbia; Kal Tire; Mainroad; RCMP; Road Safety at Work; SafetyDriven; Tiger Calcium; Tire and Rubber Association of Canada; Wilson M Beck Insurance Group; and WorkSafeBC.
About Road Safety at Work
Road Safety at Work manages the Shift into Winter campaign as part of its mandate to help BC employers improve the safety of workers when they drive for work. It provides free tools and information for employers, supervisors, and drivers at RoadSafetyAtWork.ca.