It’s winter: time to talk tires

Winter, all-weather and all-season tires perform in different ways

The first time you drive on freshly fallen, calf-high snow with winter tires is pretty satisfying. While the car next to you is slip-sliding, your tires grasp the road with a vice-like grip.

It’s like your treads have teeth and they’re chomp, chomp, chomping through snow and slush to gain traction. Suddenly, you are much more connected to the road and a whole lot safer.

How the rubber hits the road

The right tire is literally a matter of how the rubber hits a cold, snowy road:

  • Winter tires have softer rubber, which means they grip better on snow.
  • All-weather tires are designed to grip at temperatures above and below 7° C––they have excellent grip on all kinds of road conditions: bare and wet asphalt, slush, ice and snow.
  • All-season tires, which many argue are only three-season tires, are made from a harder rubber compound that loses traction around 7° C. That’s right: seven degrees above freezing.

Tire Talk - What's the Difference?

Tread counts too. Winter and all-weather tires have what the tire industry calls ‘aggressive tread design and siping.’

Aggressive tread design translates to a deep and pronounced tread and siping is fine slits in the tread. Together, these bite into snow and push out water and slush.

For more information, see the Alberta Motor Association’s story The Cold Truth About Winter Tires.

An unnecessary risk

You could call the tread in all-season tires passive. It’s lower in profile and designed to reduce noise and give you a low rolling resistance ride during warm temperatures.

In cool and cold temperatures, the tread can become clogged with snow and slush and when that happens it’s a slippery ride. And slippery can be downright dangerous, especially when turning and braking.

“Too many people put themselves––and others––at unnecessary risk because they think their all-season tires will have enough grip,” says Rick Walters, the fleet safety program manager for British Columbia’s Road Safety at Work program.

“Some believe that because they have all-wheel drive and all-season tires, they’re good to go in winter. But without winter or all-weather tires, they just don’t have the traction.”

And traction and performance are what you want in winter.

Performance ratings for tires

On its website, Kal Tire compares all-weather, all-season and winter tires. Here are the top-performing tires for a variety of winter conditions:

  • Wet ice (temp below 7° C): studded winter tires.
  • Rough ice (temp below 7° C): studded winter tires.
  • Soft snow (temp below 7° C): unstudded winter tires.
  • Wet asphalt (temp above and below 7° C): all-weather tires.
  • Stability on asphalt (temp above and below 7° C): all-weather tires.
  • Stability on asphalt (temp above 7° C): all-season tire.

A small price for safety

If the cost of winter and all-weather tires is holding you back from slapping on a set of four this winter, Walters offers this advice: they’re a small price to pay compared to losing control, damaging your vehicle or injuring yourself or someone else.

And then there’s the thrill of your first time driving on good snow tires.

Going to pot

Knowing marijuana’s risk

It’s not just a joint . . .

Canadians’ increasingly casual attitude to marijuana has prompted the federal government to promise it will make the substance legal on April 4, national marijuana day, lifting a 97-year-old prohibition on weed.

With its growing acceptance, lots of people might think marijuana is harmless.

But a growing number of experts don’t. One of them is Diana Dow-Edwards, the distinguished visiting research chair in Brain Science and Child and Family Health and Wellness with the Fulbright Canada-Palix Foundation, who’s studied marijuana for more than two decades.

Dow-Edwards and other neuroscientists know marijuana can lower a person’s IQ, lead to mental illness and cause abnormal responses to stress. Pot’s effects vary according to when and how a person uses it and for how long. The effects are most dramatic in teens who are heavy users (smoking a joint four times a week) of the weed and its synthetic versions such as K2 and spice. Their brain development can be permanently altered.

Marijuana use can:

  • Slow physical responses
  • Reduce coordination, balance and peripheral vision
  • Cause cognitive impairment by limiting verbal learning and memory
  • Bring on depression
  • Trigger anxiety

In other words, marijuana impairs. Not always exactly the same way alcohol or other drugs (legal or illegal) do, but it still diminishes your ability to think and act.

Health Canada warns that the effects of marijuana “take days, weeks, months or years to resolve after use is stopped, depending on how long one has been using and when use began. Regular smoking can also harm the lungs.”

If you work in a safety-sensitive job, using marijuana or pot can make you a workplace hazard. If the federal government keeps its promise to legalize marijuana, Enform and its member associations are asking the legislation to call for anyone who tests positive for marijuana use be removed from safety-sensitive positions until they test negative (as is currently the case).

Because no reliable test yet exists for determining marijuana impairment, you can’t be tested for impairment—just the presence of the substance. And pot can remain in the bloodstream for up to 30 days. So a joint smoked two weeks ago when you were off rotation, could see you sidelined for two weeks. The same holds true for medical marijuana.

Depending on your use, you could also be required to undergo drug and alcohol treatment.

When it comes to your well-being and safety in the workplace, it’s not just a joint. It’s an actual hazard.

For resources on developing alcohol and drug policies, see Alcohol and Drug Policy Model for the Canadian Upstream Petroleum Industry.

Read past blog posts in this series:

Legalized marijuana will become a matter of policy

This August, Health Canada introduced regulations to make cannabis more accessible for medical purposes. This spring, the federal government plans to make the recreational use of marijuana legal. Continue reading

Marijuana and workplace safety: question and answer with Cameron MacGillivray

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised his government will legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana. The Liberals announced plans to introduce legalized marijuana on April 20, 4/20, or national cannabis day, and expect to introduce legislation this coming spring. Continue reading

66th Annual Petroleum Safety Conference (PSC) – May 2-4, 2017

66th Annual PSC call for speakers

If you were at last year’s Petroleum Safety Conference (PSC) in Banff last year, you may have noticed a smaller, more intimate gathering where great conversations about safety issues were had. We are continuing the tradition at next year’s Conference, set for May 2-4, 2017. This marks our 66th year (yes, you read that right), and will once again be held in Banff.

We are looking for engaging speakers to join us for the 2017 program. Specifically we are looking for safety presentations focused on:

  • safety culture
  • process safety
  • hazard management
  • regulatory compliance
  • industry case studies

Submission process

66th Annual PSC call for speakers

66th Annual PSC call for speakers

If you call yourself an expert on any of these topics, please submit a speaker submission. The deadline to submit is Tuesday, September 27, 2016. 

Questions? Please contact for more information.

We look forward to hearing from you!

When lightning strikes

It’s true. You’re more likely to be hit by lightning than win a lottery jackpot.

For the record, your chances of being struck by lightning are slim. Still, Environment Canada says lightning kills roughly 10 Canadians every year and injures between 100 and 150 others. Your odds increase if you work outside. And they can soar if you find yourself in the wrong place when a thunderstorm rolls through. Continue reading

Avoid these traps

Some 50,000 commercial trappers harvest about 750,000 wildlife pelts (badgers, coyotes, wolves and more) in Canada every year.

Many work in areas with oil and gas operations: from prairies and foothills to boreal forests and mountains across the country. Continue reading

Avoiding the nightmare of roadside wildlife

It’s almost fall. And just as sure as the leaves change colour and the days get shorter, you can expect to see more wildlife on the road.

For big game, the fall is rutting season, a time when they’re intent on mating and nearly oblivious to traffic. Deer and moose can be downright unpredictable, making driving hazardous. Continue reading