PUC launches safety awareness campaign to protect road workers

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Oct. 26, 2023 edition of The Sault Star.

PUC Services Inc. is teaming up with local first responders, Sault Ste. Marie city officials and construction association members to launch a new road safety awareness campaign that will roll out in 2024.

Safety manager Janis Gartshore made this announcement Wednesday morning at PUC's headquarters on Second Line East alongside representatives from Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, Sault Fire Services, Sault Ste. Marie Paramedic Services, the City of Sault Ste. Marie and Sault Ste. Marie Construction Association.

All six organizations will be releasing safety videos next year, through social media and other online platforms, that highlight the importance of paying attention to construction signs, pylons, barricades and all road work in general.

During Wednesday's announcement, Gartshore said local incidents involving negligent motorists ignoring these road signs are all too common, resulting in close calls that put the safety of these workers at risk.

"Last winter, while our crews were repairing a water main break on McNabb Street, one of my colleagues was nearly run over because a member of the public drove through a 'road closed' sign," the PUC safety manager said in an accompanying news release.

"The driver failed to clean their windshield properly and could only see out of a tiny portion of their windshield. As a result, they came within inches of running over our crews who were trying to fix a broken watermain."

Scott Booth, executive director of the Sault Ste. Marie Construction Association, also spoke out about the dangers facing his members, including an incident last spring when a school bus drove into the back of a backhoe.

"Just a couple of minutes earlier, workers were shovelling asphalt out of the backhoe and if they were still there they would have been run over," Booth said in the same news release.

"The crews were also at that location for a couple weeks, so it wasn't a new construction site."

Gartshore went on to say that the province of Ontario witnessed approximately 264 injuries resulting from collisions in construction zones in 2020.

The Ministry of Transportation reports that 30 per cent of these collisions were caused by excessive speed and/or distracted driving.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government

Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star