By Shantel Lipp
Saskatchewan aims to make roads safer for construction crews.
By Shantel Lipp
For those who work within the road construction industry, safety is always top of mind.
For those who work within the road construction industry, safety is always top of mind. In the summer of 2012 road construction safety was brought to the forefront when a work zone tragedy claimed the life of a flag person on a road construction crew. In response to that tragedy the government of Saskatchewan began working on a package of new safety measures that were aimed at keeping road crews and the travelling public safe.
The changes began with a focus group comprising industry stakeholders, government officials and the RCMP. The goal of the group was to minimize the complexity of work zone signage for the travelling public and to educate them on when they need to slow down. This spring the government launched the It’s Black and White campaign aimed at clarifying the confusion for drivers travelling through a construction work zone.
Now drivers travelling through a work zone in Saskatchewan will be met by an orange sign with a black image of a worker on it and a tab that identifies Workers Present. This will be followed by a new regulatory speed sign, which alerts drivers to slow down to 60 km/h. Upon reaching the end of the work zone, drivers will see a sign that says End of Work Area, letting them know they may now resume their speed. In addition to the new work zone signage, heavier fines, rumble strips, photo radar and stricter enforcement on heavy traffic corridors will be implemented.
All of these changes are welcome by the Saskatchewan heavy construction industry. They do, however, mean those in the industry will be required to dig deeper into their wallets and replace or add to their existing safety signage measures as part of the new standards. Contractors now required to have the newly legislated signage displayed alongside construction gates, rumble strips, electronic message boards and photo radar could be looking at a capital investment of approximately $100,000. Our members continue to invest heavily in safety training, support, equipment and programs to keep our workers safe.
The question now becomes, how do we get the travelling public to not only understand the changes but abide by the law? Increased fines for speeding within the construction work zone are only effective if a driver is caught. With the amount of investment being poured into the revitalization of our highway transportation system, SHCA members will have multiple crews working on projects all across the province. Those people are not there as an inconvenience; they are necessary to improve the roads for everyone.
It will be a challenge to educate the public so they understand that when they enter a construction work zone, they are in fact entering the workplace of many of our employees. Transportation professionals deserve the same protection as professionals in any other office or workplace.
No matter how perfect the traffic accommodation plan is, driving through a work zone always poses an opportunity for potential driver error. In a construction work zone a car is like a weapon. Speed is the number 1 problem in the zone today, and the lasting effects of an accident will go far beyond the point of impact. When a worker on a road construction crew is injured or killed, the effect it has on family members, co-workers and employers is devastating.
Every year we try to educate drivers on the importance of paying attention. This year those efforts will be even more important because all eyes in Saskatchewan are on us to ensure we keep our workers safe.
For the employees of a road construction crew, safety means going home at the end of the day to family and loved ones.
Shantel Lipp is President of the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association.