As if we needed to ask. But we did. The results of a recent poll of planting supervisors, workers, and other silviculture crews make it clear the problems with road deactivation and worksite access risks for forestry work are not an isolated set of anecdotes.
Respondents to the poll conducted last month 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 this week 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.
An emergency transport vehicle was stuck trying to get to a planting worksite on a deactivated road. So how would it get out with a patient? A road access management joint working group has been convened to answer that and other questions related to the practice of deactivating roads before planting crews can reforest harvested blocks.