March 2010 - Avalanche Hazards

Safety Alert Type: 
Province of BC
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
BC Forest Safety Council
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

Recognizing and Assessing Avalanche Hazards


Every year in BC, avalanches cause injuries and death, usually to recreational backcountry users, but sometimes to forestry workers. In November 2009 a Coroner’s Death Review Panel was convened to examine a number of avalanche-related deaths. The panel’s report highlighted the importance of improving “...avalanche awareness, preparedness and the risk assessment and decision-making process involved in avalanche incidents." The entire report is available online here.

Why is this important to a forestry operation?

Forestry activity often takes place in and around avalanche terrain. Avalanches can be a risk to workers and machinery from early winter well into the summer months. Harvesting activities often increase the risk of avalanches occurring. Planning for avalanche hazards is important for forest worker safety and, since 2009, is a requirement under WorkSafeBC regulation.

Before work begins in a forestry workplace where there may be a risk of avalanche, a risk assessment and avalanche safety plan must be prepared by a qualified registered professional and a qualified avalanche planner. For additional information on avalanche assessments, please refer to this recent WSBC bulletin. The Canadian Avalanche Association also has useful resources on their website.

If you need to get up to speed on “Avalanche Safety Plans: WorkSafeBC Regulations and Front Line Best Practices,” mark your calendars for May 3rd & 4th. The Council is planning a forestry-focussed workshop with the Canadian Avalanche Association during their Continuing Professional Development Seminar in Penticton. Details are being finalized so check www.avalanche.ca for updated registration information.

Recognizing the hazard is essential...

Whether it’s avalanches or forest fires, the first step in worker safety is always to identify the hazard. On March 31st, the Council will introduce the overall theme for our 2010 injury prevention campaign: Recognizing Hazards and Risks. Throughout the year, we will be releasing a suite of effective, practical tools based on RADAR, a safety process developed in the forest industry and proven to increase hazard awareness and control. The acronym RADAR stands for: 

  • Recognize the hazard
  • Assess the hazard - stop and think
  • Develop a safe solution - get qualified assistance if necessary
  • Act safely
  • Report the hazard and actions taken to others


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