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From the Editor: July-August 2014

What will it take? How do we protect our road construction workers?


July 31, 2014
By Andrew Macklin


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How do we protect our road construction workers from getting hurt?

How do we protect our road construction workers from getting hurt?

On July 2nd, 55-year-old Brian Daniel was struck and killed by a pickup truck while directing traffic on a bridge rehabilitation project near St. Thomas, Ont.

A few weeks earlier, in the early hours of June 20th, a 41-year-old road construction worker in Alliston, Ont., was killed. A second worker, also a member of the crew from the Public Works Department, was seriously injured but managed to survive. A 32-year-old man was charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm and failing to remain.

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It has become a common story on Canada’s roadways. In July of 2013, one worker was killed and another severely injured after the remnants of a two-vehicle crash plowed into the two workers. Just a week later, a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Transportation Department was struck and killed while painting lines on a highway near Stephenville.

It is a scene that has become all too familiar across the Canadian road network. Drivers ignore the demands of road construction zones, failing to reduce their speed and drive with more caution while passing a crew hard at work. There are also the impaired and impatient drivers, the ones that make our roads dangerous regardless of whether or not a construction crew is active on the roadway.

The number of serious injuries is still far too high despite the best efforts of the road construction industry. According to WorkSafeBC, there have been 396 claims of injury, workers hit by motor vehicles, in the province over the past 10 years. Of those 396 claims, 192 were classified as serious and 21 workers have been killed.

The provinces, for their part, have tried very hard to eradicate the issues of ignorance that surround driving in construction zones. In September of 2012, one month after the death of an 18-year-old female flagger near Midale, Saskatchewan, RCMP officials blitzed the province’s roadways to issue tickets to anyone failing to comply with construction zone safety standards.

There have also been extensive road safety campaigns launched by individual provinces to remind people about road construction zones. The Government of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Road Builders Association are working together on the The Road is our Workplace campaign to help drivers understand the importance of construction zones. In Alberta, the Don’t Rip campaign is using five movable radar guns to track driver speeds in different parts of the province to identify any regional differences.

It is clear that the industry and, for the most part, the government, are doing their due diligence in making road construction zones clear and fines steep enough to deter driver ignorance. And yet, accidents like the one on June 20th still happen.

What is the solution? Perhaps we need to take a look at the fundamental way our drivers are taught to operate motor vehicles to find a solution, teaching them from the beginning how to be smart in road construction zones. Or, perhaps, some sort of national campaign is needed to shine a spotlight on the issue.

Clearly, someone or some organization needs to take a lead on this issue. We need to ensure our workers are safe.


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