In November 2008, WorkSafeBCintroduced the Resource Roads Safety Demonstration Project, an initiative aimed at improving safety for those workers who travel and work on BC’s resource roads. The term “resource roads” refers to the over 400,000 kilometers of roads in BC which are not defined as public highways – also referred to as “industrial roads”, “logging roads”, “forest service roads” and “petroleum development roads”; many of these roads are unfinished, with gravel surfaces, and are suitable for single or two-lane traffic flows. While resource roads are primarily built to service the forestry, mining and oil and gas industries, there has been an increase in use by the general public and various industrial sectors.
Historically, resource roads were built to provide a single industrial user (such as forestry companies) with access to remote locations of the province, and the designated user had control over the construction, maintenance and operation of the road. As times have changed, access to and use of resource roads in BC has expanded to include the general public and various industrial activities such as tree-harvesting and log-hauling, oil and gas exploration, northern BC tourism, and mining. With such industry expansion and a lack of understanding by inexperienced resource road users, there has been an increased risk of serious injuries and fatalities for workers; as such, the regulation of resource roads must be altered to suit the changing needs of the roads and transportation industries in BC. As a result of the evolving nature of BC’s resource roads, WorkSafeBC has recognized the need for more stringent rules and regulations.
The Resource Roads Demonstration Project is a partnership between WorkSafeBC and regional industry partners, designed to highlight practical ways to apply health and safety measures in relation to resource roads. The demonstration project focuses on two pilot regions, in Prince George (primarily focused on forestry) and Fort St. John (primarily focused on oil and gas), in an effort to assess the current situations, define the needs and measure results in order to devise a plan of action. In each region, the Road Safety Management Group – which will consist of a committee of road owners, road licensees and WorkSafeBC representatives – will test and evaluate current procedures in order to develop a resource road management system and outline how stakeholders can comply with health and safety responsibilities. The hope is that the demonstration project will highlight areas that need improvement and provide examples of how both regional resource road owners and local users can manage safety issues on resource roads.
The demonstration project will build upon current standards for resource roads, and will designate a shared responsibility for maintaining safety on such roads. The project will produce a report which will highlight the Prince George and Fort St. John regions as examples of how safety responsibilities can be managed on resource roads. As well, the report will explore the options for using new technologies to further improve safety for resource road users, and will be used to develop a strategy for provincial resource road safety.
As use of our resource roads becomes increasingly widespread, it is not simply the responsibility of WorkSafeBC, government agencies and concerned stakeholders to take measures to ensure worker safety on the roads. The workers themselves and the general public must also accept responsibility for complying with and adhering to provincial laws and regulations, and for applying safe practices while travelling on BC’s 400,000 kilometres of resource roads.
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