Manitoba Federation of Labour calls for change to protect safety of road workers

Current safety rules in Manitoba are not strong enough to protect road workers, according to the president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL), in an open letter to Minister of Family Services and Labour Jennifer Howard.

The federation highlighted the 2010 death of Brittany Murray — 21-year-old highway flag worker — who was killed by a driver going nearly double the speed limit.

Michael Blostein, 79, was found not guilty of dangerous driving earlier this year. The verdict is being appealed.

“The recent court decision in the Brittany Murray tragedy shows that Manitoba safety rules need to be fixed,” said MFL president Kevin Rebeck. “The judge in that case said a lack of clarity around when and where drivers need to slow down was a key factor in the acquittal of the driver whose vehicle killed Murray.”

The open letter calls on the province to urgently clarify Manitoba’s rules so that drivers know exactly when and where reduced speed limits are in effect for a construction zone. It cites new rules in Saskatchewan that require clear signage, rumble strips and gates to alert drivers that they are entering a construction zone with reduced speed limits.

“Making sure drivers know when and where they need to slow down is the most important lesson we can learn from the Brittany Murray tragedy,” said Rebeck. “We owe it to her and to all road workers to fix these safety rules.”

Rebeck’s open letter also called for other changes to better protect the safety of road workers:

• Current safety rules for road work do not specify any mandatory controls to protect workers. The rules should be more prescriptive about mandatory controls, particularly with respect to signage, barriers and worker positioning.

• Enforcement of safety rules for road workers needs to be strengthened and clarified. The Workplace Safety and Health branch must take the lead on enforcement, and should conduct high profile inspection blitzes focused on road worksites to ensure that employers know the safety rules for road workers will be enforced.

“The province recently committed to make Manitoba ‘the safest place to work in North America,’” said Rebeck. “If we want to get there, we’ll need to strengthen the rules that protect road workers.”