Every day, countless individuals face serious hazards when they report for duty as roadside workers. WorkSafeBC statistics show that in the past decade, 386 British Columbia roadside workers have been injured by motor vehicles – with 46% of those injuries deemed as serious, and another 3% resulting in fatalities. The bulk of these incidents have occurred within the boundaries of the “Cone Zone” – high-risk areas where workers are employed close to moving traffic. Workers employed in the “Cone Zone” span a range of industries, including flag people, road construction and road maintenance workers, municipal workers, tow-truck drivers, telecommunications and utility workers, and emergency and enforcement personnel.
The “Cone Zone” is a campaign recently launched by the Work Zone Safety Alliance, a collection of organizations dedicated to improving and ensuring the safety of roadside workers in British Columbia. The Alliance consists of a number of organizations united in the roadside safety effort: BCAA Road Safety Foundation, BC Ambulance Service, BC Construction Safety Alliance, BC Flagging Association, BC Hydro, BC Landscape and Nursery Association, BC Municipal Safety Association, B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, FortisBC, IBEW258, ICBC, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Telus, The Community Against Preventable Injuries, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, Lower Mainland police, and WorkSafeBC. Many of these organizations are particularly concerned with roadside worker safety because their employees, associates and industry members often work in a “Cone Zone” environment at some point or another.
The “Cone Zone” campaign is focused on reducing the number of roadside worker deaths and injuries by increasing awareness of the hazards faced by those who work roadside in the “Cone Zone”. The campaign expands on the current WorkSafeBC “Slow Down” initiative and the provincial government’s legislation to “slow down and move over” when passing emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road. “Cone Zone” messages encourage the public to reduce driving speeds, to avoid driver distraction, and to respect the roadside “Cone Zone” as a dangerous workplace.
First and foremost, the Work Zone Safety Alliance seeks to show the public that those workers are in the “Cone Zone” as part of their job. Drivers must understand that the roadside is the workplace for these people – and a hazardous one at that. When entering a “Cone Zone”, always reduce your driving speed, pay attention to the environment (especially any workers or equipment very near the road), and be respectful and recognizant of those roadside workers and their workplace. Wherever possible, always expect the chance of entering a “Cone Zone” and avoid frustration by planning your routes carefully, allowing yourself extra travel time, slowing down in the “Cone Zone” even if workers aren’t visible, leaving adequate space between your vehicle and the one in front of you, making eye contact with flag-persons and, perhaps most importantly, exercising patience and respect with roadside workers at all times. A few simple adjustments will make the roads a safer place to work, and could even save lives.
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