Orange cones are known by names such as traffic pylons, traffic cones, markers, road pylons, safety products, and even witch hats. The latter is in direct reference to the shape of the device. As the name suggests, it looks like the hat of a typical fairy tale witch or an upturned ice-cream cone. So, then, what are orange cones used for? Although originally designed specifically for road-safety applications, these oddly shaped devices have many uses. However, before we get into the main functions of orange pylons, let’s give credit where it is due.

Origin and History

A painter who went by the name of Charles Scanlon can be credited for the rubber pylon. He patented the design back in 1943 for a cone that would return to an upright position after it was struck. The idea originated while he was working for the LA Street Painting Division. He found the wooden tripods used to warn motorists of the workers and to demarcate a path around the wet paint to be bulky and somewhat too fragile. He also thought the wooden structures were hazardous to the road users.

It took a few years for the invention to gain attention in the UK. There, the first type of traffic pylons was used on the M6 highway in place of the red lanterns used at previous road-construction projects. David Morgan claimed to be the designer of the plastic pylons that we use today. He designed plastic safety pylons to replace the wooden pyramid types originally used. However, road pylons became the norm in the USA already back in 1959 when the pylons were placed at the front and back of service trucks that were parked in the street. Their function was to make the trucks more visible for road users and to increase the safety of the workers. This trend stayed and today the pylons are widely used in many countries for the same purpose. Fortunately, today, the traffic markers are made from a thermoplastic material rather than the concrete of the very first ones and the solid wood of the pyramids that followed thereafter.

Main Applications

This brings us back to the question of what orange cones are used for. The main applications are in road safety, though orange cones are also used at:

  • Sports
  • Events
  • Construction
  • Shopping centres

In road safety, the main uses for orange cones are:

  • Demarcation
  • Emergency
  • Warning
  • Delineation
  • Traffic control
  • Road closure

Starting with road safety, the applications of pylons are discussed in more detail below:

  • Demarcation. The pylons are made to be portable, easy to deploy, and just as easy to remove. This makes it possible to use the devices for demarcating specific lanes such as taxi, bicycle, horse, bus, or emergency lanes. The pylons are often used to demarcate a temporary lane or to merge two lanes into one lane. Driving schools often use smaller ones to demarcate parking spaces during driving instructions. These types of pylons are also used at driver test centres for the same purpose.
  • Emergency situations. Emergency workers place the safety pylons around accident scenes to demarcate an area that is for the use of emergency personnel only. The devices are placed around the accident scene, also acting as delineators. The vehicles are directed around the accident scene. With such pylons in place, emergency personnel can assist the injured parties, knowing that the passing vehicles are clearly shown where to drive to stay clear of the scene.
  • Warning. Orange cones are placed at the front and rear of a stationary truck to warn motorists of the hazard. With the pylons placed at a safe distance from the truck, motorists have enough time to take evasive action because the will notice the truck in time.
  • Delineation. As delineators, the pylons serve to warn of a hazard such as possible debris from roadworks or when cutting the grass next to the road. In this instance, the pylons serve to direct motorists around the potential hazard. Survey teams, road-surface painters, and construction workers also place the pylons to show where they are working and to indicate a safe path around the potential hazard.
  • Traffic control. The pylons are used by law-enforcement officers to redirect vehicles, as indicators of stop-go locations or roadblocks, and to direct vehicles into a single lane as part of a traffic-control measure. The pylons are placed at pedestrian crossings to warn motorists of the pedestrians and to show where they should stop during traffic-control periods such as just before school starts in the morning or in the afternoon when school is over and children return home.
  • Road closure. Orange cones are also placed at road closures as an indication of no-go zones. Normally, alternative-route signposting would be present at such closures.
  • Other uses. As mentioned earlier, the brightly coloured pylons are widely used in applications such as at sports and other events and at construction sites.
  • Sports activities. The cones are used to create temporary lanes for cyclists, act as goalposts in sports activities such as hockey and soccer, and to indicate areas that are demarcated for specific field events.
  • Events and entertainment applications. Whether at trade shows or entertainment events, the pylons are used to create ticket lines, help with crowd management, and to indicate no-go areas.
  • Construction sites. Mining and construction sites pose several hazards, such as ditches, open manholes, live wires, and more. To this end, the orange cones are placed around the hazards to act as warnings of the hazards.
  • Shopping-centre applications. Floor-cleaning staff use the pylons as alternatives to the yellow “wet floor” signs to demarcate spaces where shoppers should not walk. This method is also used by maintenance staff. In some instances, the pylons are placed in front of disabled parking spaces to prevent unauthorised usage of these spaces.

Why are the orange cones ideal for all these applications we’ve discussed? This is because these pylons have several important features, amongst which are the following:

  • Lightweight design because of the PVC material and hollow design, which makes it easier to deploy and remove the devices without needing any special equipment.
  • The lightweight design also makes them easy and cost-effective to transport.
  • The hollow design allows for stacking when not in use, which helps to reduce the space needed for storage.
  • Brightly coloured for maximum visibility in poor light and low visibility.
  • Can be fitted with reflective strips for optimal visibility at night.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Heavy base that helps to prevent them from being blown over too easily by the wind.
  • UV-stabilised material ensures good protection against premature fading in sunlight.
  • One-piece design ads to the strength of the pylon.
  • Highly flexible structure virtually prevents damage to vehicles upon collision with the pylons.
  • Available in various heights, including 350, 450, 600, 750 and 1000 mm.
  • Small footprint means less surface space is taken up.

Buy Pylons According to Application Needs

Though in many countries, different colours are used for the various applications, in South Africa the daylight-glow orange is usually the most widely used in road-related applications. Other colours are often used at sports and entertainment events. The size used is important to ensure optimal visibility and functionality. The cones must be large enough to be easily visible, yet small enough not to become a hazard themselves. Huge orange or red cones are used at mines where very large vehicles operate. The smaller types would simply not be visible from such vehicles. The base must be heavy enough to prevent the cone from toppling over in typical road applications. For sports and for indoor and event purposes, smaller and lighter pylons that do not have heavy bases are sufficient. For outdoor use, it is essential to buy pylons made from durable PVC material able to withstand the elements.

Where to Buy Pylons

Though many DIY retail centres offer pylons for sale, when it comes to bulk purchases at highly competitive prices, it is best to look for a bulk supplier of road-safety products in South Africa. The pylons from such a supplier meet the manufacturing and safety standards for road-safety products in the country and such a supplier can provide all the types, from the smallest to the monster-size pylons, with or without reflective strips. In addition, quality guarantees can be provided. Rather than importing the products and having to deal with import duties and administrative issues, purchase high-quality, durable, orange cones from a trusted local supplier such as Armco Superlite.