BY CHRISTOPHER FRIESEN - The Province of Manitoba recently unveiled new construction zone regulations it hopes will make roadwork safer for construction crews and flaggers.
The new regulations were announced just a few weeks after Manitoba’s Court of Appeal upheld the 2013 acquittal of a motorist, who struck and killed a construction site flagger while speeding through a construction zone.
The new rules took effect May 16, 2014.
“Hopefully it will affect the vast minority of drivers, who choose to ignore the fact that when they are going through a construction zone, or adjacent to a public right-of-way where people are working, that they are actually creating hazards in the workplaces of other people,” said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA).
The new regulations, contained in an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, establish criteria for Designated Construction Zones (DCZ).
The new rules make it an offence to speed through the zone regardless of whether workers are present.
The legislation also doubles the fine for speeding in a DCZ.
The regulations clarify the requirements to mark DCZs with proper signs and they prohibit using signs that warn motorists to lower their speed only when passing workers.
Lorenc said the new regulations are something his association has been asking for and that they are a good step forward in clarifying motorist responsibilities when behind the wheel.
He also thinks doubling fines for violating the construction zone speed limits is a step in the right direction.
He said the new regulations make sense because they eliminate the need to determine when workers are present, but he cautions that no regulation is fail-safe and emphasizes the need for a public education campaign to ensure the message gets out.
“There has to be an education campaign advising the public of the change in the law, the purpose for the change and the consequences for breach of the law,” he said.
“And, if all of that is done, then we think that the vast majority of drivers in our province are reasonable, and they will follow the law and the regulation. And those who choose not to, (and) who are caught, will pay the consequences.”
Mike Jones echoed those sentiments.
He is the executive director of the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba (CSAM).
He said his organization has also been involved in advocating for the new rules.
“We’ve been part of the Safe Roads committee for many years. Part of the reason for that committee was to bring forward safer conditions for workers on the side of the road,” he said.
“The Safe Roads committee put forward a letter to the government, showing support for new regulation and the changes that needed to be made.”
Jones said it’s great that the new regulations have arrived and he hopes they will help motorists understand the need to be safe in someone else’s workplace.
“It’s great that it’s there, that we’ve moved forward, but it’s all about how we’re in somebody’s workplace. When we’re driving through construction zones, or we’re driving past Hydro vehicles or police or fire fighters at the side of the road, we’re driving through their workspace,” he said.
Jones also said he feels the new regulations will go a long way towards keeping workers safe and that if implemented correctly, will help modify motorist’s behavior.
“The thing is, it has to be enforced,” he said.
A letter from Larry Halayko, the director of Manitoba’s Department of Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT), sent to provincial industry associations and available on the MHCA website, states that enforcement of the new speed regulations will be handled by police services and compliance with the DCZ sign regulations will be monitored by Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health officers.
It also states these changes are the first phase of the implementation of the new amendments.
Details and a timeline for the implementation of phase two are not yet available, but ongoing contracts will be expected to meet the new requirements. MIT is offering to help defer the cost of the new sign requirements for these projects, the letter states.
The new regulations for motorists and DCZs will complement amendments introduced last year, for flaggers that were also intended to provide them with stronger protection.
Those requirements included prohibitions on the use of personal electronic devices, enhanced requirements for high visibility personal protective equipment, and standardized training required for all flaggers.
Both organizations, the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba and the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association offer courses in safety for all construction employees.
The CSAM has a half-day workshop specifically designed to help new flaggers meet the requirements of Workplace Safety and Health legislation.
MHCA’s course is a component of their Heavy Equipment Operator’s training program.