For employers and supervisors
Winter can be the most dangerous time of the year for employees who drive for work in BC. Employers and supervisors need to plan ahead and be prepared for the change in seasons to help keep drivers safe. Use our templates and other resources to reduce risk and protect your most valuable asset — your staff.
What employers and supervisors need to know
Any work-related driving puts employees at risk. Winter increases the risk, especially when drivers go too fast for the road and weather conditions. Nearly 40% of all work-related crashes resulting in injury and time off work occur from November through February in BC.
The highest-risk occupations, according to WorkSafeBC statistics, are:
- Transport truck drivers
- Delivery and courier service drivers
- Bus drivers, subway operators, and other transit operators
- Community health support services employees
Meeting your safety responsibilities
Employers are required to keep their employees safe when they drive for work. Supervisors have similar duties for employees who report directly to them. Make sure you know your responsibilities.
To help meet them at this time of year, address winter driving in your road safety plan. You’ll find a lot of the information you need in our What Employers Need to Know (PDF 1 MB) and What Supervisors Need to Know (PDF 177 KB) guides. Review our Winter Driving Safety Planning Tool Kit for steps you can take before, during, and after winter.
If you have vehicles over 5500 kg GVW, review our commercial carriers information.
Our guide for the community and home care sector (PDF 1 MB) suggests 4 steps employers can take to help keep employees safe while driving.
Identifying winter hazards and assessing risk
Your employees encounter many driving hazards all year long. Hazards such as distractions, speeding, fatigue, worn tires, and traffic pose risks at any time. In winter, however, drivers have to deal with even more hazards. Slippery roads, reduced visibility, fewer daylight hours and poorly equipped vehicles make the likelihood of a crash in winter even greater.
Here are some of the common hazards your drivers may come across and why you need to pay even more attention to them during the winter:
|Hazard||How winter increases driver risks
|Driver does not look for or recognize driving-related hazards||Driver response time is crucial in preventing crashes. Even when a driver is watching for hazards, heavy rain, snow and fog can impair their ability to see and respond safely to hazards.|
|Driver is complacent when driving and does not give full attention to driving tasks||Not paying attention decreases response accuracy and increases response time. Inattention and complacency, coupled with poor traction and longer stopping distances in winter, increases crash risks.|
|Driver is fatigued resulting in reduced vigilance, slower reactions, impaired decision-making, and increased risk-taking||Fewer daylight hours and difficult road conditions make winter driving more physically and mentally demanding. That increases driver fatigue and the likelihood the driver will make errors that lead to a crash.|
|Driver does not adjust driving to accommodate poor road, weather, and traffic conditions||Winter driving conditions should cause all drivers to slow down and increase their following distance. Driving too fast for conditions reduces those safety margins and increases both the probability and severity of a crash.|
|Driver is not familiar with certain vehicle features, such as chains||Not being able to install chains means a driver could become stranded. Also, trying to drive with improperly installed chains increases risks for the driver, and other road users.|
|Hazard||How winter increases weather risks
|Route includes roads and intersections with high crash frequencies||Busy routes, challenging curves and complex intersections become even more dangerous when roads are slippery and visibility is poor.|
|Slippery roads||Even for drivers with quick reaction times, poor traction caused by heavy rain, snow or ice decreases steering accuracy and increases stopping distance. Black ice can form when temperatures hover around 0 degrees, and in shaded areas such as tree-lined streets, and underpasses.|
|Pooling water||In winter, heavy rain and melting snow increases pooling water, which can hide dangerous road hazards and cause hydroplaning.|
|Hazard||How winter increases vehicle-related risks
|Vehicle component failure||Cold temperatures seem to cause more mechanical failures. Also slush, snow, and ice can cover sensors on your vehicle and impair their functions.|
|Tires have insufficient tread depth, or are not suited for application (e.g., all-season tires rather than winter tires)||Using tires with insufficient tread depth and tires not suited to the conditions are a sure way to increase crash risks in winter.|
|Unstable or improperly secured load or cargo||A snowy and/or wet pick-up box or deck surface makes it difficult to properly secure a load, increasing the risk that the load could slip or become unstable.|
To manage increased risks during winter, it’s important that you winterize your road safety risk assessment. Start by reviewing our Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Tool Kit to learn more about risk assessments. Next, use RiskCheck to identify the hazards that expose your drivers to the greatest risks. Then, use the recommendations, links and resources in RiskCheck to build and implement measures to reduce winter driving risks.
Developing policy and procedures
Once you understand the hazards and risks associated with the type of driving your employees do, put some safety guidelines in place to deal with them. Set safe driving expectations and supervise employees to make sure they’re being met.
Review our Policies and Procedures Tool Kit to learn more.
Preparing drivers for winter
Drivers need to adjust their driving behaviours to be safe in the more challenging winter conditions. They may be rusty since they haven’t been on icy or snowy roads for a while. One way to find out if drivers have the skills they’ll need for driving this winter is to do ride-along driver assessments.
New and young workers need training and orientation. Even experienced drivers will benefit from a winter driving refresher session. Have them review our Driving for the Conditions Tool Kit and Practical BC Winter Driving Tips webinar. Use our tailgate meeting guides (PDF 2 MB) to emphasize key driving safety points. The guides cover 8 different topics, from winter tire specifications to driving in poor weather conditions.
Both you and your drivers need to feel you’re ready for the winter ahead. Make sure they:
- Have completed appropriate driver training and demonstrate the necessary skills
- Understand and follow your policies and procedures for keeping them safe (e.g., safe winter driving, check-in procedures, etc.)
- Know how to physically and mentally prepare for winter driving
- Know how and where to report winter driving hazards
- Know how to decide when road conditions are unsafe, and what to do when they are
- Have the necessary equipment (e.g., winter tires, vehicle emergency kit, etc.)
- Know what to do in an emergency or if they become stranded
Preparing vehicles for winter
Winter takes a significant toll on vehicles. To help ensure your work vehicles perform safely and reliably in winter, take the following steps.
Winter driving conditions are more demanding than summer conditions. You need to make sure your vehicles are suited to winter conditions and will provide sufficient traction. Your employees might have been just fine driving a 2-wheel drive sedan in summer, but they might need something more substantial in winter – like an all-wheel drive SUV. Assess your company-owned vehicles along with any employee-owned vehicles that are being used for work. Make sure they’re designed and equipped for the driving your employees will be doing this winter.
Preventative maintenance is key. Make sure the following are in good shape:
- Windshield and mirrors
- Winter windshield wipers – front and rear
- Headlights, taillights, signal lights
- Battery, fuses and electrical system
- Sensors in the front and rear bumpers, windshield, etc.
- Cooling system, block heater (if equipped), cab heater
- Exhaust system
- Vehicle emergency kit
Use 4 matched winter tires that have the 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Tires marked just with M+S (Mud and Snow) are legally acceptable where winter tires are required, but don’t perform as well in the cold and snow as designated winter tires.
Make sure your tires are in good condition. The legal minimum tread depth for winter tires is 3.5 mm (5/32”), but we recommend replacing winter tires by the time they get to 5 mm (6/32”).
Learn more about winter tires and regulations.