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BC Cone Zone campaign aims to keep Sea to Sky roadside workers safe

Put the phone away, slow down and watch for cones, vests and workers, says campaign director.
CONEDaniel AvramGetty
There are loved ones behind these signs, says new Cone Zone campaign.

Behind those red cones on the side of the road is someone's daughter, father, brother, mom, best friend or spouse. 

That is the message of a new Cone Zone campaign to raise awareness and keep Sea to Sky roadside workers safe.

According to WorkSafeBC, two roadside workers in the province were killed last year, and 31 were injured and had to miss work after being hit by a vehicle. 

Over the last decade, 12 roadside workers lost their lives and 221 missed time from work due to injury. 

"That's 233 people — mothers, fathers, friends, work colleagues, and neighbours," said Trace Acres, road safety at work program director and spokesperson for the Cone Zone campaign. "Every roadside worker in the Sea to Sky area deserves to make it home to their family at the end of their shift without injury."

While the campaign includes flaggers who alert drivers to construction zones, many other folks can find themselves behind the cones, Acres told The Squamish Chief. Others who can be behind cones or in high visibility vests on the road include first responders at crashes, law enforcement officers, tow truck drivers, municipal workers, landscapers and everyday folks helping out in an emergency along the highway. 

"The biggest issue really is drivers not paying attention and not adhering to the signage or not obeying traffic safety personnel, not slowing down in construction speed zones," Acres said. 

"So it's really, I think, a lack of awareness of what they're required to do in construction zones, or any zones where they see work at the roadside."

Anytime that you see red and blue or orange flashing lights at the side of the road, there's a law in B.C. that says you have to slow down, and, if possible, move over to give those roadside workers more room to do their work, he noted. 

Acres said as part of the campaign, he spent time with RCMP in a construction zone in Surrey. 

In half an hour, RCMP handed out about 20 tickets. Almost half of them were for cell phone use.

Put the phone away, Acres said. 

"Even one injury or death is one too many, especially when they can be prevented. If people are paying attention, slowing down, abiding by speed limits, abiding by the directions of the traffic control personnel, then those types of things shouldn't happen," he said.

The campaign isn't just aimed at drivers, however.

Drivers, workers, and employers all have a role in roadside safety, he said, noting that employers are legally required to ensure safe workplaces for their roadside workers by providing job-specific training, education, and supervision.

For their part, workers should wear appropriate visible clothing and know how to identify hazards and assess risks.

Acres noted the twisty nature of the Sea to Sky Highway could make it difficult to see far ahead of where cones and workers may be, so extra caution is required. 

"On the Sea to Sky highway, low light conditions, fog, rain, snow — you kind of have it all in the Sea to Sky," he said. "You have a lot of blind corners; you have winding sections. And in some sections where you don't have four lanes, there are just two lanes. The onus is upon drivers, even more, to ensure that they are obeying speed limits and paying a lot of attention," he added. "I think people need to be reminded, again, that the speed limit is the maximum allowable speed under ideal driving conditions. Everybody, I think, just tries to push the speed limit regardless of what the conditions are. It's a bit shocking."

The Cone Zone campaign is a joint provincial initiative supported by the Work Zone Safety Alliance of organizations.

Go to ConeZoneBC.com for more information.