Summer traffic puts Kootenay roadside workers at risk every day. How would you cope if vehicles drove within a few feet of your workstation? It’s a daily peril for many residents of the Kootenays. They’re roadside workers – people who do their jobs while traffic flows around them. Every shift they face the risk of being injured or killed. More vehicles on the road during the summer and around holiday weekends increases the risk.

“Working around traffic is dangerous,” says Trace Acres, spokesperson for the annual Cone Zone safety awareness campaign. “Cone Zones are there to protect and save lives.”

Tens of thousands of British Columbians work at the roadside in Cone Zones, which are most often associated with bright orange cones. (Reflectors and other signs can also be used.) Each zone has its own unique set of hazards associated with roads, traffic, vehicles, weather, and work activities. “Driving too fast and not paying attention in a Cone Zone puts roadside workers at risk,” Acres says. “Orange cones are often the only thing separating their workspace from your vehicle.”

WorkSafeBC statistics show two roadside workers in the province were killed last year and 31 were injured seriously enough 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.

“It’s more than road construction and maintenance crews, and traffic control persons,” says Acres. “We’re also talking about landscapers, municipal workers, tow truck operators, utility workers, movers, and delivery van drivers. Also watch for flashing lights and slow down when you see emergency and enforcement personnel.” The annual Cone Zone campaign aims to raise awareness about the safety risk, and reminds employers, workers, and drivers to each do their part to prevent deaths and injuries. They can find resources at ConeZoneBC.com

Drivers approaching a Cone Zone need to:

  • Slow down and avoid distractions like a phone. A distraction of even a few seconds can have life-changing consequences
  • Pay attention to temporary road signs, traffic cones, and directions given by a traffic control person
  • Comply with BC’s Slow Down, Move Over law, which requires drivers to slow down and move over to the left lane when safe to do so for any vehicle flashing a red, blue, or amber light. This includes tow trucks, utility vehicles, garbage trucks, and emergency response vehicles
  • Typical penalties for unsafe driving in a Cone Zone include a $368 fine for using a phone and at least $196 for speeding

Employers and prime contractors who have employees in roadside work zones are required to:

  • Do a risk assessment of the hazards
  • Take steps to eliminate or reduce the risk
  • Supervise, train, and equip workers to help keep them safe

Roadside workers also have legal safety responsibilities. They need to:

  • Know how to identify hazards and assess risks
  • Properly set up their work zones
  • Follow safe work procedures, including set-up and take-down regulations
  • Wear appropriate high-visibility clothing
  • Report unsafe work conditions to their supervisor

In its 12th year, the Cone Zone campaign is a provincial initiative supported by the Work Zone Safety Alliance and managed by Road Safety at Work. “Every roadside worker in the Kootenays deserves to make it home to their family at the end of their shift without injury,” says Acres.

Road Safety at Work