News / London

Drivers warned after death of St. Thomas construction worker

Cut your speed when you see construction, drivers have been warned, or the consequences could be severe.

The police and a leading figure in the construction industry made heartfelt pleas in the wake of the death of a worker from St. Thomas on Wednesday.

The flagman’s death wasn’t mentioned as the Ontario Provincial Police issued a reminder on Thursday morning to drivers to slow down and use increased care when driving through construction zones, but it clearly inspired the action.

“I have noticed that people don’t pay attention to the speeds they are travelling at, and are entering the zone too fast,” said acting sergeant Chrystal Jones of the OPP.

“And for those that are slowing down, they are driving distracted, thinking it is a good time to check their messages or use a handheld device,” says Jones.

Jones also acknowledged that many Ontario drivers do slow down and respect both the posted limits and workers.

In all construction zones where workers are present, fines for speeding are doubled.

The fine for driving 15km over the posted construction zone speed limit would be $178.00 and two demerit points, the OPP said.

Four months ago Dave Baxter, executive director of the London District Construction Association chose to sit on a committee with representatives from the Ministry of Labour, unions and other construction companies.  Each month they review safety statistics for the industry.

“I took the last four months as my apprenticeship in this, and the one thing that hit me the most was road safety,” said Baxter.

“Each month we are presented with information from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, at this last meeting we were told that the number of deaths, critical and non-critical injuries for the area was roughly half compared to last year,” said Baxter.

“I suggested to the presenter that this was good news and we should get the information out. He responded: ‘This is not good news. One accident is one too many, until there are no numbers on this page, it is a not a good news story.’ It completely changed my attitude. This was an absolute unnecessary death. It is just really awful.”

Construction zone flagmen are there for safety as much as traffic control.  With heavy equipment moving around, asphalt and other materials being delivered in other large trucks, flagmen have to be constantly aware of their surroundings and manage traffic flow in the safest possible way.

“I think that drivers forget that,” said Jones. “They (drivers) think of it as an inconvenience as opposed to a safety measure.

Drivers need to be more cognizant, they need to be mindful and pay close attention to what they and the flagman are doing.”

Tragic loss

Brian J. Daniel, 55, of St. Thomas, was directing traffic around a crane-type vehicle on the Burwell Road overpass at around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

He was struck by a pick-up truck travelling west on the Highway 3 bypass, and pronounced dead at the scene.

The police arrested the truck driver, Benjamin Clayton Dickout, 45, of Malahide Township, and charged him with dangerous driving causing death.

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