In order to respect the Cone Zone, drivers need to respect the people it is designed to protect. A big part of the Cone Zone BC safety campaign is showing the faces behind the signs and pylons.
Without further ado, we’d like to introduce traffic controller Sharon Harris. She’s a pro when it comes to keeping construction crews, special event participants, drivers, pedestrians and many others safe when there’s action on B.C. roads.
We recently chatted with Sharon to learn what it’s like to work as a flagger. (Hint: it’s not a breeze.)
Flagger Sharon Harris with a co-worker
TranBC: Hi Sharon. Let’s start by hearing a bit about you.
Sharon: Well, I live in North Vancouver and I have two cats, one dog, and a husband who actually does the same work I do. I work fulltime, and when I’m not working, usually hubby and I are out in the garden or visiting friends or having friends over. We love gardening, and my husband was in landscaping for about 10 years before starting this work.
TranBC: How much experience do you have as a traffic controller?
Sharon: I’ve been a traffic controller for eight years, so I have quite a bit of experience. I’ve been training a bunch of people over the last couple months. Any time we do a special event, my husband is a supervisor of the event, and I have about five or six people under me. The last two special events were the Ride to Conquer Cancer and a movie shoot on the Burrard Street Bridge.
Sharon: It means a lot. My husband was hit about two years ago. He was on the Mary Hill Bypass and had his whole lane closure set up, all his signage up. He was sitting in his truck having lunch and a car came around the corner – the driver admitted he dropped his cell phone – and hit him. My husband’s truck went flying, and he had a concussion and eight stitches in the back of his head.
With the Cone Zone, some people just don’t get it. There are people in there. We’re mothers, we’re fathers, we’re aunts, uncles, sisters. We’re people, too. We’re just doing our jobs, we’re not trying to go out of our way to make people late for work. We try to make the delays as minimal as possible. It upsets me. I’ve had people hurt, my husband has been hurt. I’ve had a couple close calls, but I’ve been very fortunate over eight years.
TranBC: What do you want drivers to keep in mind when passing through cone zones?
Sharon: They have to be aware. Too many have died doing this job. I’m not doing this to be mean. It’s for the safety of my crew, it’s for my safety. The crews have a job to finish, they’re trying to get it done quickly so we can get off the road. But there are jobs to be done.
The stuff that some drivers do and say is very hurtful. I try not to let it get me down, but sometimes it does. At the end of the day, I go home, and it’s not very often, but sometimes I just sit there and I cry because I just can’t take any more abuse. We’re human – we’re not pylons standing there. And people think – and I used to think the same thing – that job is so easy. But you know what? It is a lot of physical […] and it’s all mental. I have to keep my crew safe, pedestrians safe, the cars safe, everything and everybody.
TranBC: What do you enjoy about being a traffic controller?
Sharon: I do love it. I’m a people person. Especially when I’m in a residential neighbourhood, you get to know all the neighbours if you’re there for a while. I love to give everybody a smile, and if they don’t give one back, well I’m sorry, but maybe it just helped make your day a little bit better.