Ski hills question 'helmet rule' for employees
Officials are questioning a new ruling by WorkSafeBC that requires employees at two local ski hills to wear helmets when skiing or riding.
The changes only apply to employees of Whistler Blackcomb and Mount Seymour, not to Grouse Mountain, Cypress, or any other ski hills in B.C.
Whistler Blackcomb says it will begin enforcing the new law on May 4, but staff is questioning the need for the change.
"Only Whistler Blackcomb and Seymour have been given this direction," said Joel Chevalier, a spokesman for Whistler Blackcomb.
"For the past three years, there has been mandatory helmet use for snow school and recommended helmets for all guests and anyone on skis or snowboards, but we firmly believe wearing helmets is a personal choice," said Chevalier.
The new rule applies to any staff member working on skis, which includes lift operators, ski patrol and even employees transporting food and beverages between locations.
Officials from WorkSafeBC were not available for comment.
Last year, Whistler's health care centre dealt with about 800 head injuries from skiers of all kinds. Whistler Blackcomb could not provide statistics for how many, if any, of its employees suffered head injuries.
Richard Kinar, a local helmet advocate, says the changes are long overdue.
"When they're working underneath a chairlift, there's an overhead risk, or being skied into... these people are working on the hills on a regular basis, they're absolutely at risk," Kinar said.
Requiring instructors to wear helmets could set an example to the public to do the same, he said.
"It's the bumps that have a cumulative effect that helmets really successfully help in reducing the injuries," Kinar added.
With files from the CBC’s Deborah Goble