Lane Closure is an essential tool of traffic management around worksites that are located in the roadway.
There are two sources of regulation for traffic control in British Columbia. The first is WorkSafe BC which is responsible for workplace safety throughout the Province. This authority is the primary source of traffic control safety on all streets and highways. WorkSafe BC has inspectors who visit job sites to monitor compliance with Provincial standards.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure publishes a Manual called the Traffic Control Manual for Work On Roadways which is the rule book for traffic control setups.
WorkSafe BC Regulations in part 18 state:
It is clear that the ruling document for the technical aspects of traffic control is the MoTH Manual for Work on Roadways (the Traffic Control Manual). It is the rulebook that the traffic control industry must follow. However, “Lane Closure” is a term and a practice that has grown up in the industry after the publication of the Manual and it is not clearly set out there.
Lane Closure Equipment
We refer to Lane Closure equipment as a catchall phrase that includes Buffer Vehicles and Flashing Arrow Boards (FAB’s) which are used in many more situations than just lane closure. We should consider carefully what these terms mean in practice today.
The Flashing Arrow Board
FAB’s can be truck mounted or trailer mounted. The trailer mount is often used for longer duration setups but for short duration they are inconvenient because they must be towed to the work site, set up, then when the site is closed, they must be towed away. It is labor intensive and thus costly and totally impractical for most short duration work such as utility work. And they provide no buffer protection and carry no traffic control equipment.
The Lane Closure Vehicle
The Ansan Group, although possessed of all forms of FAB equipment, recommend a truck mounted FAB for all short duration traffic control setups. The vehicles travel with the work crew, carry ample equipment for any likely setup, and when placed upstream from the work crew, form a buffer or barrier protecting the crew from on-coming traffic. Buffer vehicles are discussed in Section 2.2.5 of the Traffic Control Manual.
The driver of every Ansan Lane Closure Vehicle is a TCP and the vehicle carries sufficient signs and equipment for almost every lane closure setup that will be encountered. In addition they carry smaller equipment such as flashlights, radios, clip boards, manuals, jumper cables, extra paddles, hard hats, goggles and the like.
These vehicles are usually ordered in two situatins: the first is when required by the Traffic Manual and the second, when the customer does not have the necessary traffic control equipment for the traffic setup.
The use of this equipment is required in various circumstances by regulation. Some situations are very clearly set out. In many traffic control setups, however, the experience of the TCP may dictate the use of such equipment for safety purposes.
The Traffic Control Manual sets out general principals of traffic control and then gives specific examples of common situations that will be encountered and shows the required equipment. Often the form a setup takes is a matter of interpretation and this is where the experience of the TCP or Traffic Control Company comes into play. The Traffic Control Manual anticipates that experience and the particular situation will dictate what equipment is required.
Diagrams in the Manual set out various common traffic situations. Where these diagrams set out a traffic control setup, it is required by WorkSafe BC that it be complied with. A failure to set up according to these diagrams is a breach of the WCB Act and Regulations and of course it opens the contractor, and the flagging company, to serious liability issues in the event of an accident.
As an example, take Chapter 3 of the Traffic Control Manual. It sets out several typical traffic control setups in diagrams which dictate the type of setup to be used.
Figure 3.1.1 clearly sets sets out the use of a Buffer Vehicle with a FAB or 4 way Flashers. Both are mounted on an Ansan Lane Closure Vehicle. Because the vehicle is specifically required in this situation, failure to have it will open the contractor to liability if this setup is not used.
The requirements of the Traffic Control Manual are varied depending on the work to be performed and the degree of disruption that will be caused on the road. This is influenced by the type of work vehicles, the widths of the streets, the expected traffic flows, the speed of the traffic and the streets layout.
Utility crews travelling from site to site must be prepare to meet all of these possibilities. To properly set up all these types of sites, signs, delineators, flashing lights and FAB’s are all required. The only way Ansan knows to ensure that we can handle all of these setups safely and in compliance with the Traffic Control Manual is to deploy a fully equipped lane closure vehicle.
The Ansan Group has been urging the use of these vehicles as a matter of policy as the most safe and effective means of ensuring compliant traffic control set ups.
Current Practice in the Lower Mainland
As the Ansan Group has expanded to service clients throughout the Province it has been found that there are substantial regional differences in the current practice on the road although the rules are uniform for all. There are also regional differences in enforcement levels and that has led to poor compliance in outlying regions.
Ansan has worked the longest in the lower mainland and generally it has been possible to convince customers of the prudence of using Lane Closure Vehicles. Where only flaggers are required, the practice is that the customer carry sufficient signage and delineators to set up their required work site. For simple job sites like a concrete lift at an apartment construction site or a movie shoot in a single location, it is easy to anticipate requirements. However, moving utility crews are a special problem because we do not know in advance what conditions will be encountered by the Ansan crew.
Occasionally when an Ansan TCP arrives on a site and the client is not prepared to set up traffic control correctly due to lack of equipment, the flagger will call the Ansan dispatcher and report the situation. They will then do the best they can to protect their crew with the equipment provided but a senior Ansan trainer is sent to the site to review the traffic control arrangement and take it up with the client’s foreman if necessary.
Ansan will remove its crews from an unsafe worksite, as they are required to do, and this does happen from time to time. But generally such situations are resolved through education and discussion. Over the years this has become less and less of a problem.
The practice in the rest of the Province is considerably different region to region. Generally, FAB’s and Lane Closure Vehicles are discouraged in favour of TCP’s alone, often in situations that clearly require more.
What is even more troublesome is that the practice has developed that clients carry no signs and the TCP’s are expected to carry traffic control signs and equipment in their private vehicles. This is of serious concern to Ansan.
Inherent Difficulties with Sign Transport by TCP’s
To begin with, the carriage of equipment in a vehicle in which workers are riding is governed by WorkSafe BC Regulations which say:17.5 Securing equipment (1) Materials, goods, tools or equipment carried in a portion or compartment of a vehicle in which workers are riding must be located and secured to prevent injury to the operator or workers. (2) If materials, goods, tools or equipment are regularly carried in a worker transportation vehicle there must be a designated area in the vehicle for transporting these items.
Carrying signs in personal vehicles offends the Regulations. Even a pickup truck is not sufficient because the equipment thrown loose in the box still offends the Regulations. Ansan Lane Closure Vehicles have steel cages for the storage of signs and stands. Equipment has a “designated area in the vehicle” and it is “located and secured to prevent injury to the operator or workers”.
These concerns extend to the customer’s work vehicle as well. If they are to carry signs and equipment these regulations are applicable.
The equipment to set up a basic traffic control worksite is bulky. At a minimum you would require 10 delineators and 6 seventy five cm signs with stands. This would cover about 70 % of set ups on residential streets. But it would leave many setups deficient an non-compliant with the Traffic Control Manual.
If speeds are above 60 km/hr the larger 120 cm signs may be required and above 70 km/hr not only are the larger signs required but they require “Wind Master” sign stands. These are much larger stands that resist the wind from speeding vehicles and prevent them being knocked over. These simply cannot physically be carried in a personal vehicle. They are large, heavy and awkward.
Because the amount of equipment that can be carried in a personal vehicle is so limited, many worksites are improperly set up. There is frequently not enough equipment to create a safe and compliant work site.
In the event of an accident, the equipment in a personal vehicle is dangerous. Sheet aluminum signs become flying knives which are a danger to the TCP and to members of the public in proximity to the accident. This is the very reason for Section 17.5 of the Regulations.
The Ansan Group has attempted to discourage the practice of TCP’s carrying equipment in their personal vehicles and to promote the use of Lane Closure Vehicles where the Traffic Control Manual would require them or where good sense dictates their use, i.e. where traffic is travelling at greater than 60 km/hr. And our experience is that where we have tried to modernize and enforce current safety rules and practices, if it conflicts with established practice we meet with complaint and resistance. Traffic Control Companies do not want to invest in the best equipment nor do they want to train or retrain their TCP’s to the new ways. The traffic control users do not want to incur the extra cost of bringing their traffic control standard up to date.
Wherever the Ansan Group has sought to introduce change to improve safety and compliance with Provincial Law and Regulation, it has met resistance. The work crews, the construction and utility companies, even the flaggers themselves, have resisted change and attempted to get around it. Lane Closure Vehicles have not been used extensively outside of the Lower Mainland even though they are safer, more convenient, and ensure better compliance with the Regulations.