On the road to safety: Transporting workers poses significant risks in silviculture sector

Tree planters travel to work site

New research on the root causes of passenger vehicle travel risks for forestry workers

In a recent root cause analysis workshop, industry experts from Ontario’s silviculture sector gathered to address critical concerns regarding workplace health and safety. Ensuring the safe transportation of workers, especially tree planters, has emerged as a top risk within the industry. 

The workshop, facilitated by Sabrina Missere, Health and Safety Specialist at Workplace Safety North, included representation from management, workers, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (Ministry), and Workplace Safety North (WSN).

“Both management and workers unanimously agreed that one of the top risks for tree planters was travelling in passenger vehicles on forest roads,” says Missere.

Here are the top 10 root causes of passenger vehicle driving hazards identified by workers, supervisors, and employers:

  1. Lack of training: Insufficient training on vehicle operation and maintenance poses a significant risk to drivers and passengers alike.
  2. Distracted driving: Distractions while driving lead to unsafe vehicle operation, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
  3. Driver fitness: Drivers being unfit to operate vehicles due to fatigue, sickness, or substance use compromises safety on the road.
  4. Supervisory oversight: Lack of enforcement of safety standards by supervisors contributes to unsafe driving practices.
  5. Production-driven culture: Pressure to meet production targets encourages behaviours that compromise safe driving practices.
  6. Lack of recognition of driving risks: Inexperience exposes drivers to hazardous situations on the road.
  7. Lack of training and experience: Inadequate training and experience for driving on forest roads increases safety concerns.
  8. Vehicle maintenance: Inadequate maintenance of vehicles and tools increases the risk of mechanical failures and accidents. 
  9. Driver assessments: Lack of assessments of drivers’ capabilities during the work season results in higher risks for passengers being transported.
  10. Road conditions: Varied levels of road conditions, maintenance, and radio communication standards pose challenges to safe transportation of workers.

Addressing the root causes

To make transporting workers safer in the silviculture sector, specific actions need to happen. “There needs to be training programs that teach different things like how to operate vehicles appropriately, keep them in good shape, and drive safely,” says Missere. 

“It’s very important to make sure safety rules are followed strictly. Supervisors need to regularly check that everyone is following these rules and doing things safely. Also, there needs to be a change about how we think about safety. Getting to the job site safely must be the priority, and should not be affected by production pressures.

“Helping drivers get more practice and support is also important. When they have more experience and someone to guide them, they can become better drivers. It’s also crucial to regularly check and fix vehicles. This helps make sure they're safe to use.

“Lastly, we need to look closely at the roads we use. By checking for dangers and coordinating with the Sustainable Forestry Licensees to fix them, we can make sure driving is safer for everyone in the silviculture sector,” says Missere.

Collaborative efforts for safer transportation

The workshop emphasized collaboration and transparency. People discussed the issues both in-person and in online meetings. Results were validated through presentations and discussions. Employers, supervisors, workers, the Ministry and WSN worked together to find effective solutions and foster a culture of safety on the road.

“It’s important to recognize and address passenger risks to protect the well-being of workers in Ontario’s silviculture industry,” says Missere. “By working together and finding solutions, the industry is helping make sure driving on forest roads is safe for everyone—whether you’re driving a log haul truck or travelling as a passenger on the way to the worksite.” 

Next steps include establishing a WSN Silvicultural Advisory Committee to help carry these recommendations to help industry protect workers.


Poster - Top 10 Root Causes of Passenger Vehicle Driving Hazards in Silviculture Sector

Poster - Top 10 Root Causes of Environmental Risks in Silviculture Sector

Technical Report: Ontario Silviculture Root Cause Analysis Workshop Results and Next Steps

Poster - Top 10 Health and Safety Risks in Silviculture Sector

Article: New research reveals top 10 health and safety risks in silviculture sector

Risk Assessment Workshop Results