Belle Bourroughs, a flag person with 37 years experience, was struck by a vehicle on Highway 6 in Lavington on Nov. 17. - Image credit: Lisa Vandervelde/Vernon Morning Star.

B.C. flag person’s death shines light on dangers

Company calls for more awareness of and respect for flaggers following an Okanagan woman’s death

When Traci Jeeves would send out a more inexperienced traffic control person to a job, she would always rest easy knowing they were with Belle Bourroughs.

Jeeves is owner of Okanagan Traffic Control Professionals out of Armstrong and Bourroughs had worked for her for 10 years.

A flag person for 37 years, Bourroughs was struck by a vehicle on Nov. 17 – her 66th birthday – while doing traffic control on Highway 6 in Lavington. She died as a result of her injuries on Dec. 6.

“She was top notch,” says Jeeves.

Bourroughs’ death is being felt by all those she worked with and is highlighting the dangers of the job.

According to WorkSafeBC statistics, between 2007 and 2016 in B.C., 15 roadside workers were killed by a vehicle while working on or beside the road. Of 244 people hit, 161 were in the construction trades and 124 of those, 77 per cent, were flag persons.

Related link: A ticket for injuring flagger

Related link: Deliberate bumping of flag person highlights worker safety

Rob Hein, manager of roads and parks with the City of Salmon Arm, says the city uses Okanagan Traffic Control regularly.

“We’re pretty sad about it… It’s unfortunate – it’s an unnecessary accident. It’s a really dangerous career, unfortunately. The number of people doing that job that get hit is really astounding.”

The company also works regularly in Vernon and Spallumcheen.

Jeeves is devastated by Burroughs’ death, who she considered a friend.

Because of the fatality, Jeeves’ business is being investigated by WorkSafe BC. She has handed over about 700 documents so far.

“The safety of all roadside workers is an ongoing concern and priority for WorkSafe BC…,” writes the agency in an email. “Ultimately, however, the employer is obligated by law to ensure worker safety.”

Jeeves emphasizes she’s a strict employer who adheres to all rules, regulations and documentation required. She says she has gone over in her head how she could have done things better, but hasn’t come up with anything that could have saved her employee’s life.

“There’s nothing I can see looking back, how I could have made things safer for Isabelle and, with her experience, nothing I would have done any differently.”

Related link: Shock hits Okanagan flagging community

Jeeves would like to see more driver awareness of the job flag people must do as well as more respect for them.

“We actually catch the brunt of everyone’s anger. I can tell you, on a regular basis, at each and every worksite…, if you haven’t been flipped the bird by 4 p.m., you’re still going to get it. There’s always someone that gives us hell.”

Since Bourroughs was hit, flaggers Jeeves knows have been talking about whether the job is really worth it.

“It breaks my heart to think flag people are not being treated properly. We are already low man on the ladder, we don’t get paid enough, we know what we’re doing, and we’re first in line for abuse.

“There needs to be flagger awareness. We need more respect.”

A celebration of the life of Belle Bourroughs, who leaves behind her spouse, five children and three grandchildren, will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at the Enderby Royal Canadian Legion #98, 909 Belvedere St., Enderby.

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Lisa Storey and Belle Bourroughs with Okanagan Traffic Control out of Armstrong were pictured during a break on Aug. 18 while the concrete on a newly poured sidewalk in Salmon Arm dried. Burroughs was struck by a vehicle on Nov. 17 while doing traffic control on Highway 6 in Lavington. She died on Dec. 6 as a result of her injuries. - Image credit: Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer.

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