Safety audit calls for more training for highway crews

Flag people, paint crews and others who work on Newfoundland and Labrador roads often don't get the training they need, according to a safety audit which makes 61 recommendations which it says could save lives.

Audit ordered after death of N.L. government employee who was setting up signs for painting crew

Wayne Wall, 41, died after a pickup struck a truck used for road painting. His death prompted a review of safety practices in the Department of Transportation and Works. (Colleen Connors/CBC )

Flag people, paint crews and others who work on Newfoundland and Labrador roads often don't get the training they need, according to a safety audit which makes 61 recommendations which it says could save lives.

The occupational health and safety traffic audit was ordered by the provincial court in December, 2016, after the death of a Department of Transportation and Works employee.

Wayne Wall, 41, was killed while setting up road painting signs on the Trans Canada Highway near Flat Bay on July 23, 2013. He was hit by a truck and killed instantly.

The department was convicted of safety violations and ordered to pay $90,000 in fines.

The accident that killed Wayne Wall happened on the west coast. The audit identified inconsistent safety practices between regions. (Google Maps)

The safety audit was completed by East Coast Corrosion and took place from June 19 to July 20, 2017.

It covered all regions of the province and included 73 interviews with supervisors, site personnel and contractors.

The report concluded that even though workers don't appear to be in imminent danger, more fatal incidents could occur if recommendations from the audit are not acted upon.

Concern for young workers, night crews

It identified insufficient and inconsistent training for staff and supervisors, confused record keeping and concern that declining resources would reduce an emphasis on safety.

Flag people need training on how to manage fatigue, the auditors said, especially given the influx of younger workers.

"Supervisors have expressed that a one-day training course does not give a worker an adequate level of understanding of traffic control and more practical training is required," auditors wrote, citing examples of flag persons using cell phones while working, along with incorrect or missing signs.

The auditors also expressed concern about dangers associated with roadwork being done at night.

"Even though night time work was a pilot project and not a focus of the audit it is evident that there would be some additional training requirements that would accompany this work," the auditors wrote,.

"[The Centre for Learning and Development] indicated that they have reached out but have no responses regarding this matter."

Drivers need to be better educated too, according to the audit.

"Ad campaigns on traffic control, radio announcements, traffic control signage within NL driver's exam are suggested tools which can educate the public in their responsibility."

Making changes, department says

The Department of Transportation and Works said it has been taking steps to improve the safety culture and practices and to address issues identified in the audit, including implementing a risk management and hazard assessments program.

In an email to CBC News, it said the training program for staff is being revamped and new skill sets are being added to the department, including the recruitment of a traffic engineer position, which will be a central point of contact for all traffic control matters.

The entire Occupational Health and Safety Traffic Audit report can be viewed here