Alberta government looking to improve safety for roadside workers

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Alberta government has introduced a new bill to toughen rules protecting all roadside workers – good news for construction workers, officials say.

“Alberta’s road construction and maintenance industry puts worker safety first. This legislation is greatly appreciated because we need drivers to slow down and do their part to make their highways – our worksites – safe and efficient for all,” noted Ron Glen, CEO, Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association.

The Traffic Safety Amendment Act will require all motorists traveling in the same direction to slow down to at least 60 km/h when passing a stopped roadside work vehicles with lights flashing. Current fines for passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road can range from $136 to $826, depending on the speed.

Alberta’s Government will conduct an educational campaign for all drivers prior to the anticipated enforcement date of spring 2023.

“Roadside workers work in a high-risk environment and deserve the best protection so that they can go home safely to their families at the end of their shift. That’s why, following consultations with the public and stakeholders, Alberta’s government is proposing these changes to protect all those working along our highways,” said Rajan Sawhney, Alberta’s minister of transportation.

If the bill passes, motorists traveling in the opposite direction on single lane highways would also be required to slow to 60 km/h when passing work vehicles.

“Near misses and collisions are a regular occurrence for Alberta’s tow truck operators, emergency responders and other roadside workers,” Michelle Chimko, president and CEO, Alberta Motor Association said in a statement.

“We applaud these changes as an important first step in improving the safety of these essential workers and look forward to our continued work in further improving their visibility and safety. We ask all Albertans to take care when passing a roadside scene. Those few extra seconds can make all the difference in keeping someone’s loved on safe.”

Between March 2018 and March 2021, there were 128 collisions involving snowplows contracted by Alberta Transportation.

Rules for roadside maintenance and construction workers would be similar to protection in place for first responders and tow truck operators across the province.

“Highway maintenance crews throughout our industry provide critical services to our province’s expansive highway and road network, for the benefit of all Albertans. It is gratifying to see our government taking deliberate and proactive measures to improve safety for all highway maintenance and roadside personnel,” stated Kelly McManus, president, Transportation and Highway Operations, LaPrairie Group of Companies.

About 15,000 Albertans responded to an online survey from March 16 to April 6, 2021:

    • 92 per cent supported requiring all vehicles to provide one lane of space when passing a roadside worker vehicle when its lights are flashing.
    • 60 felt that the current passing laws were inadequate.

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