by Kerstin Auer —
Residents of the Nicola Valley are no strangers to roadside construction, with several major highways converging in Merritt, and long term road construction projects still ongoing for both Highway 8 and the Coquihalla Highway in the aftermath of the 2021 floods. Vigilance is always a must, and the recently launched provincewide Cone Zone campaign wants to put a renewed focus on the risks for both workers and drivers.
According to a press release by Road Safety at Work, a WorkSafeBC-funded initiative working to eliminate work-related motor vehicle crashes, deaths, and injuries in B.C., 12 roadside workers were hit by a vehicle and killed in B.C. from 2012 to 2021. Another 221 were injured seriously enough to have to take time off work.
“Think about the workplace you go to every day. Now imagine cars and trucks whizzing by within just a few metres of you,” says Trace Acres, program director for Road Safety at Work and spokesperson for the 13th annual campaign. “That’s how vulnerable roadside workers are. Sometimes, orange cones are the only things separating their work site from moving vehicles weighing several tonnes.”
Work zones are not only major construction projects, but also smaller sites like a tow truck driver assisting a motorist roadside, a moving van parked for loading and unloading, or public works crews watering plants or maintaining public spaces within the City of Merritt.
“Your driving decisions affect lives,” says Acres. “Every worker is someone’s parent, child, friend, neighbour, or co-worker. How you drive in work zones in Merritt and around the Thompson-Nicola region can be the difference between them getting home safely after their shift or being injured or killed.”
Both drivers and workers have responsibilities in work zones; for drivers it is most importantly to slow down and pay attention. Always follow instructions, which could come from signs, flaggers, or flagging devices. Anyone planning a road trip, whether it’s near or far, is also encouraged to check road reports before driving, and plan detours if available to avoid cone zones altogether. Pay extra attention to possible flashing lights – red, blue, or amber means switching lanes if possible and reducing speed, as mandated by B.C.’s Slow Down and Move Over law (SDMO).
Steep fines are in place for unsafe driving in cone zones, including $368 for using a cell phone or other electronic device while driving, and up to $253 for speeding.
Employers are required by law to provide education and supervision for their workers’ safety, such as training that enables them to identify hazards and assess risks. It’s up to the workers themselves to put the training into practice and follow safe work procedures, like wearing high-visibility clothing and other protective equipment as appropriate. Workers are also obligated to report unsafe work conditions to a supervisor and refuse unsafe work.
“As the summer road work season kicks off, we encourage drivers to be aware and use caution when travelling through roadside worksites. We can all do our part to keep roadside workers safe by slowing down and paying attention to what’s going on around us. The Cone Zone is a great reminder that it’s the little things we do while travelling our roads that keep our workers safe. Every worker deserves a safe work environment and we all play a part in making that a reality,” says Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
For more information about the campaign visit www.ConeZoneBC.com