Watch above: The City of Saskatoon is kicking off another summer construction season with an ad campaign that aims to humanize the workers. Wendy Winiewski talks to some crew members who say something has to be done to ensure safety in construction zones.
SASKATOON – They’re equipment operators, roadway inspectors, and maintenance workers by day – parents, spouses, and loved ones by night. Thursday, the City of Saskatoon launched its construction zone safety campaign, hoping to tackle a concerning number of near misses.
“We’re seeing them on our high speed roads as well as some of our local roads,” said Angela Gardiner, the city’s director of transportation.
“In many of our residential areas we have, in some cases, the road closed down and people are literally driving up onto sidewalks to go around barriers.”
According to Gardiner, there are 1,000 city employees and contractors working on city streets at any given time during the construction season.
Ray Viloria, an equipment flush operator, is one of them. Viloria’s only been with the city for a year but already has seen it all.
“They will jump the curb, drive past us at insane speeds because we’re in their way,” he explained.
Viloria is a single father of two and is hopeful the new campaign is effective.
“I’ve almost been hit, just coming out of my truck,” he recalls. “Zoomed right past me and I had to close the door on my leg.”
Over the past two construction seasons, within city limits, one worker on a contract crew was injured and many others have come close. According to Gardiner, there are near misses reported daily.
“Those are an opportunity for us to learn from them and prevent more serious hazards,” she said.
In 2015, the city will invest $53 million to build, maintain and repair roads. It’s the city’s largest construction season yet resulting in an increasing number of work zones.