Prepare Agricultural Workers, Vehicles for Hazardous Winter Driving

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Submitted by Road Safety at Work and the Winter Driving Safety Alliance

Winter can be hazardous for agriculture workers who drive as part of their job. Whether it’s heading into town, hauling livestock, or checking on other parts of the property, they face an increased risk of being injured or killed while behind the wheel.

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of traumatic work-related deaths in B.C. And the risk of being in a workplace motor vehicle crash increases by 27% from November through January. Weather conditions can change quickly, bringing snow, ice, rain, sleet, cool temperatures, and fewer daylight hours.

The Shift into Winter campaign offers 5 steps employers and supervisors can take to reduce the risk for drivers who work for them, including employees and family members.

1. Develop winter driving safe work procedures

As an employer your legal responsibility includes ensuring your drivers are aware of the hazards they may be exposed to while driving. You need to ensure they are trained and have the equipment and supervision needed to keep themselves safe.

Complete our Winter Driving Safety for Employers and Supervisors course. It’ll help you develop an effective winter driving safety program. You can also view our Keeping Your Employees Safe During Winter Driving webinar.

2. Prepare drivers

You’re also responsible for assessing the competency of workers to drive and safely operate vehicles. Seasonal and young workers may face B.C.’s winter weather and road conditions for the first time. Even long-time drivers can find it challenging.

Train all drivers to slow down to match road conditions. Have them review our What Workers Need to Know winter driving guide.

3. Equip vehicles with winter-rated tires, chains

Tires and chains are required on most routes in B.C. through March 31. For select highways, including mountain passes and rural routes in high snowfall areas, the date is extended until April 30.

For hauling trailers and equipment, remember that commercial trucks have specific tire and chain requirements outside of the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria:

  • Between 5,000 kg and 11,794 kg LGVW: Must carry chains or acceptable traction devices, unless the vehicle is equipped with winter-rated tires with the 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol or the M+S symbol and with tread no less than 3.5 mm
  • 11,794 kg LGVW and greater: Required to carry steel chains on most major highways

4. Have a check-in travel plan for drivers

Have them visit DriveBC.ca if they’re going to be off your property. It’ll show them road and weather conditions they may encounter. Also require drivers to tell their supervisor the following information before they go:

  • Destination and travel route
  • Check-in times
  • Time of return
  • How to contact them

Workers who drive by themselves or in isolated areas need to be covered by a work alone plan. Increase the frequency of check-ins to reflect the increased level of risk in winter.

5. Have an emergency plan

Prepare for a possible breakdown or other mishap and equip all vehicles with a winter emergency kit. Recommended items include:

  • Blankets and first aid supplies
  • Windshield scraper and snowbrush
  • Shovel and traction mat, sand or kitty litter, sandbags for extra weight
  • Fuel line antifreeze
  • Flares and matches or lighter
  • Tire chains and gloves
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery jumper cables
  • Non-perishable food
  • Extra clothing and footwear

Instruct drivers to charge their phones before leaving. Train them to call for help and stay with the vehicle If they get stranded, for safety and warmth. Remind them to avoid overexertion and exposure.

Visit ShiftintoWinter.ca for a variety of other tools, including our Employer Tool Kit, tailgate meeting guides, and sample policies.

Shift into Winter is a joint provincial initiative led by the Winter Driving Safety Alliance and managed by Road Safety at Work.