On-Site Magazine

Making roadside work zones safer for workers

By Adam Freill   

Construction Health & Safety

B.C.’s Cone Zone campaign urges drivers to slow down to protect roadside workers.

A two-hour safety blitz saw 42 tickets issued in just two hours as Road Safety at Work launched its annual Cone Zone safety awareness campaign in B.C. Tens of thousands of roadside workers and millions of drivers in B.C. share a common goal, says the organization; they all want to get home safe each day.

(Image courtesy of Road Safety at Work)

Achieving that goal by getting drivers to use caution and obey work zone driving laws is the focus of the annual Cone Zone campaign. It reminds drivers to avoid speeding, aggressive and distracted driving, and to obey flag persons and traffic signs. More than 30 of the 42 citations handed to drivers in work zones during the blitz were for using cell phones behind the wheel.

“Every time you drive through a roadside work zone, you’re not just passing cones and barriers. You’re in someone’s workplace,” explained Trace Acres, program director for Road Safety at Work, which manages the campaign with the support of the Work Zone Safety Alliance. “Just like you, these workers deserve to be safe in their workplace. Slow down and pay attention. Work zones are temporary but our actions behind the wheel can last forever.”

Roadside workers are in vulnerable positions with traffic passing within metres of them. They include traffic control persons, road maintenance crews, utility workers, landscapers, paramedics and police officers, tow operators, waste collectors, and many more. Every shift they’re at risk of being struck by vehicles.

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From 2014 through 2023 in B.C., nine workers were killed and another 251 injured severely enough to miss work, according to WorkSafeBC statistics.

“Most crashes are preventable,” said Acres. “Roadside workers do jobs that help the rest of us, and we can show our respect and appreciation by giving them the space they need to work safely.”

Drivers and their passengers are at risk too. Driving too fast and being distracted in work zones can lead to crashes. “You’ve got to be fully engaged because there are a lot of things going on,” he added. “Your driving decisions could be the difference between life and death.”

The safest decision is to avoid Cone Zones, if possible, he explained, advising drivers to listen to traffic reports before and during trips, and adjust routes when possible.

B.C. law requires drivers approaching and driving through roadside work zones to slow down and drive with care; pay attention and leave their phone alone; and to obey road signs, traffic control persons and devices.

“Drivers need to keep roadside workers safe by obeying the law in construction zones, following speed limits, and staying alert for workers doing their job. They deserve our respect and to return home safely at the end of each workday to their families and loved ones,” stated Rob Fleming, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “These workers help keep drivers safe and provide a vital service as we maintain and improve British Columbia’s highways.”

Drivers may see more than bright orange cones marking work sites. Automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs) are becoming common throughout B.C. These safety devices use a gate arm and traffic light to guide drivers. Vehicles need to stop when the gate is down and a red light is shining.

Vehicles stopped at the roadside with red, blue, amber or white lights flashing are also work zones under the province’s Slow Down Move Over law. It requires drivers to slow down and switch to another lane if possible and safe to do so. Penalties for unsafe driving in work zones range from $121 to $368.

With roadside worker safety being a collaboration between drivers, employers and workers, Road Safety at Work has compiled a list of tips and information tailored to each audience at www.ConeZoneBC.com.

B.C. employers are required by law to provide job specific training, education and supervision to their roadside workers. The workers need to know how to identify hazards and assess risks and follow safe work procedures.

 

www.roadsafetyatwork.ca

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