Best practices and safe operating procedures for 15-passenger vans in the silviculture workplace

Last month’s fatal collision in the Lower Mainland involving the transportation of agriculture workers has brought attention to the use of 15-passenger vans in the silviculture sector.

The WSCA has issued previous warnings to the industry regarding the vehicles’ tendency to steer poorly and their propensity to roll over in certain circumstances. The WSCA reminded employers of the need for special driver training and attention in operating these vehicles.

Van best practice.doc

The warnings were based on 15-passenger van research and two consumer advisories undertaken by the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) following a trend of tragic collisions; in particular the deaths of 13 contract American forestry workers in separate van accidents in the last five years.

Seven Canadian tree planters died similarly in Alberta in the early 90s. Although 15-passengers aren’t the dominant means of transporting silviculture workers in B.C. the heightened risk they may represent to some crews warrants industry-wide attention.

Action: Based on NHTSA research the WSCA has adopted the following industry best practice for the safe operation of 15-passenger vans in silviculture operations. The WSCA recommends:

• 15-passenger vans should not be loaded with more than nine passengers including the driver

• passengers should ride forward in front of the vehicle’s rear axle

• 15-passenger vans should not tow trailers

• roof cargo installations and other modifications to the vehicle’s design beyond the manufacturer’s specifications must be signed off by a professional engineer

• drivers of 15-passenger vans should receive special training outlining the particular design and handling characteristics of these vehicles that are of concern including describing driving practices to mitigate the potential hazards of operating these vehicles in the silviculture work place

• managers should ensure rented vehicles come with appropriate tires for resource road use

These best practice recommendations imply employers and employees meet existing regulatory and due diligence requirements for training, supervising and properly operating 15-passenger vans as they would any workplace vehicle.

For more information on 15 passenger vans the WSCA recommends: http://nhtsa.gov/cars/problems/studies/15PassVans/15PassCustomerAdvisory.htm

As part of the BC SAFE Silviculture Project the WSCA is collaborating with the BC Forest Safety Council to design and deliver resource road driver training in the future. This will include a section on operating 15-passenger vans. Pilot training courses for resource road driving are planned for the fall of this year.

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Meanwhile another van crash this week in Quebec similar to the recent Lower Mainland incident; five workers die.

Workers’ transport van destroyed in fatal crash – Five killed.

Driver of minibus lost control on way to shift at abattoir

Ann Carroll
The Gazette
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Five people were killed and nine others were injured, two of them severely, when a minibus transporting shift workers slammed into a tractor-trailer yesterday in Ste. Genevieve de Berthier, about 60 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

The transport van was travelling north on Highway 347, near Highway 158, in the morning when the driver lost control and collided with the southbound tractor-trailer, said Constable Isabelle Gendron, of the Surete du Quebec.

The van driver, a 55-year-old man, and four passengers – a 42-year-old woman and three men, age 28, 29 and 36 – were killed in the accident.

The other passengers were taken to a hospital in Joliette. The truck driver, 24, who complained of back pain and nervous shock, was also taken to the hospital, Gendron said.

The driver and 12 passengers in the minibus were on their way from Montreal to work at a poultry slaughterhouse in St. Cuthbert, near the scene of the accident, Gendron said.

They were not migrant workers, she noted; all were permanent residents and Canadian citizens.

The cause of the fatal accident is still under investigation, police said.

Witnesses said the minibus driver might have been trying to pass another vehicle when the accident occurred, Gendron noted.

Bad weather could also have been a factor, she said.

“It was very windy and raining, and the ground was covered with sleet and slush,” Gendron pointed out.

The minibus was not overcrowded, Gendron said – it had 15 seats – and was equipped with seatbelts, but police cannot yet say whether everyone was wearing their seatbelt.

Imperio Employment Agency, the Montreal company identified on the side of the transport van, declined to comment yesterday on the accident.

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John Bettts
Executive Director
Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association
Phone: 250-229-4380
hotpulp@netidea.com

Web Link: http://nhtsa.gov/cars/problems/studies/15PassVans/15PassCustomerAdvisory.htm