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Cone Zone safety campaign earns industry award

Peter Caulfield

The Work Zone Safety Alliance’s Slow Down in the Cone Zone campaign has won the 2013 Canadian Public Relations Society’s (CPRS) National Award of Excellence in the Canadian Advocacy and Social Marketing category.


Supported by the Work Zone Safety Alliance (WZSA) and WorkSafeBC, the public awareness campaign tells drivers about the dangers faced by roadside workers and encourages them to drive safely.

Cone zones in B.C. are dangerous.

According to the WZSA, 396 workers have been injured in them since 2003.

Of that number, 192 were injured seriously and 21 were killed.

“The campaign demonstrates the power of public relations and shows a solid strategy and supporting tactics,” said the CPRS’s Mark Giles, who acted as co-ordinator of the three judges in the advocacy and social marketing competition.

“This is a campaign with real meaning for people’s lives.”

The competition requires the program to use the RACE formula.

RACE is an acronym for Research, Analysis, Communications and Evaluation and is the PR profession’s standard communications planning framework.

“Unlike some public relations campaigns, the alliance undertook all the necessary research and evaluation,” Giles said.

“There was no skimping in the Cone Zone campaign.”

The Justice Institute of B.C. manages the campaign, the WZSA guides the work of the Justice Institute and WorkSafe provides funding.

Mark Ordeman, WorkSafe manager of transportation and road safety, said the creative core of the Cone Zone campaign is its personal message.

It urges its audience to identify with workers in the cone zone because they are fathers, sisters and brothers, just like them.

“It’s a message that has personal meaning,” he said.

“Everybody has a family and loved ones and they don’t want anything bad to happen to them, either.”

Ordeman said it took the WZSA months of discussion to go through and eliminate other possible campaign messages.

“You can’t be cute because the issue the campaign addresses is inherently serious,” he said.

The first Cone Zone campaign was rolled out in 2010.

Since then, it has been on radio, exterior bus placards and ads in newspapers.

Ordeman said the campaign has been effective.

“According to post campaign surveys, one-third of the people surveyed remembered the Cone Zone,” he said.

“One-half said they made significant changes in their driving behavior around cone zones, and 90 per cent said they made moderate-to-major changes.”

Ordeman said that although those figures are promising, the WZSA needs to get the message out that more than flaggers work in cone zones.

“Landscapers and utility and construction workers are affected, too,” he said.

Some of the WZSA’s 25 members have undertaken their own Cone Zone initiatives.

The Mainroad Group, which is a member of the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, designed the Cone Zone Go-Kart Ride at this year’s Cloverdale Rodeo in May.

The ride is an interactive road safety education program for youth aged 10 to 16.

The circuit resembles a real-world roadside work zone. Riders drove one of four go-karts three times around the course, passing life-sized road maintenance vehicles and equipment and eight-foot-high illuminated orange cones.

The circuit was managed by traffic control personnel and riders had to obey directions. Almost 900 youth drove the circuit during the four-day event.

Bob Nielsen, Mainroad’s corporate compliance manager, said he got the idea when he realized from observing his grandchildren that an interactive approach was the best teaching tool and the most fun for children.

“The go-karts came to mind, as I have taken our kids and grandkids to the go-karts throughout their lives,” he said.

The go-kart ride received positive comments from parents, as well as children.

“The parents loved that there was a learning element to the ride and that it was free,” Nielsen said. “The kids loved the ride itself.”

The Cloverdale Rodeo has asked Mainroad and its go-kart ride to return in 2014.

“I also want to expand this so that other fairs could do this throughout the province,” Nielsen said.

Tammy Sampson, co-founder of the B.C. Flagging Association said the Cone Zone campaign has been more effective within the industry and less with the public.

“But, each year this campaign runs, the more known it will become,” she said.

In addition to the Cone Zone, Sampson said two things need to be done to protect flaggers in BC.

“First, more police involvement,” she said. “Secondly, a heavily advertised campaign stating ‘double the fine in construction zones’”.

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