Being Safe Requires Being Aware

The old phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is not an option for being safe, according to winners of the 13th annual Roadway Work Zone Safety Awareness Awards. Sponsored by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF), the competition recognized outstanding programs aimed at helping reduce roadway work zone accidents, injuries and fatalities.

The following winners of the competition’s national/regional outreach programs category highlight the role employee and public education and training programs can play in reducing jobsite accidents. They also demonstrate that getting the word out has few if any bounds when it comes to the target audience and message vehicle.

It’s a fact

Workers and the driving public, including teenage drivers, were recipients of CH2M HILL’s work zone safety message titled, “Work Zone Safety – Driving to Zero.” Last year’s multi-faceted campaign involved creating fact sheets, participating in public awareness events with state departments of transportation, and distributing orange cones and children work zone safety activity books in schools.

“Over 70 percent of the fatalities in work zones are drivers and not part of a work crew,” explains CH2M HILL health and safety communications/outreach manager David Hancock. “When you get the safety message out, you’re saving lives and helping everyone in the community.”

As part of its campaign, the Colorado-based company created three fact sheets, one each for teenage drivers, adult drivers, and workers. Disseminated in schools, and public awareness events, and within the company, the fact sheets reviewed important safety tips for each of the three demographics.

Among tips, the fact sheets prompted adults to stay alert in construction zones, turn on the car’s headlights, and avoid tailgating. Teenage drivers were reminded to avoid distractions such as changing radio stations, using their iPod, and texting or talking on their cell phone while driving. They were also encouraged to practice driving through work zones with their parents prior to getting their driver’s license. As the fact sheet indicated, “It is good practice for getting familiar about work zone speeds and changes in the roadways.”

CH2M HIll noted that “A majority of worker fatalities in work zones occur when workers are hit by equipment.” Hence, workers’ fact sheets reminded them to make sure everyone on site knew the whereabouts of each other at all times. Wearing retro-reflective personal protective equipment, implementing a Traffic Control Plan, and ensuring adequate separation between workers and traffic were among other safety tips.

As part of National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week last year, company employees also distributed orange foam cones throughout their offices, at public awareness events, and at high schools throughout Colorado, Texas and Virginia, along with the company’s Work Zone Safety – Driving to Zero poster.

“This is the third year CHM2 HILL has won an award for work zone safety outreach and awareness, and the campaign continues to grow, especially within schools where teachers and parents want this information,” adds Hancock. “So many people are needlessly dying in work zone incidents.”

Video addresses safe trailer towing

To reduce the number of trailer incidents on jobsites around the country, Connecticut-based Lane Construction Corporation produced a “Safe Trailer Towing Operations for Non-Commercial Vehicles” training video. “The 30-minute presentation reviews all aspects of towing a trailer safely,” explains corporate safety training manager Casey Heberling. “It addresses everything from pre-use inspection of the towing vehicle and trailer and the proper use of safety chains through tagging damaged equipment, identifying hazards during trailer connection, and operating vehicles at a safe towing speed.”

As with any safety message, the video is designed to be viewed by experienced personnel as well as beginners. In other words, it’s not only a primer on operating a trailer safely, but also reminder to veterans about what steps to take prior to operation. The video, for example, illustrates that something as simple as taking the time to conduct an inspection walk-around or testing trailer lights prior to operation can prevent an accident; that proper hand placement while connecting the trailer can prevent needless injuries to workers; or that installing safety chains in an “X” pattern will provide a catching cradle if the trailer becomes disconnected during transport.

The footage was filmed at Lane’s Raleigh, NC operations and completed in April. A Spanish version was projected to be available in July. Heberling says that the video is made available to the company’s 20 safety supervisors who, in turn, make it available to on-site supervisors, foremen, and crew members. “If you are involved in any trailer towing operation at work or at home, it is important that you watch this video,” he adds.

Orange Cones. No Phones.

International toll road investor, owner and operator Transurban teamed with Texas-based design/build partner Fluor and AAA Mid-Atlantic to create awareness about the dangers of distracted driving in construction zones. The focus of the campaign, called “Orange Cones. No Phones.,” is on a 14-mile stretch of 1-495/Capital Beltway in Virginia where Transurban-Fluor is building High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.

“The Capital Beltway is one of the busiest interstates in the country,” says Transurban Director of Marketing in North America Pierce Coffee. “Unfortunately, too many drivers are distracted when driving through construction zones, which increase the dangers to both drivers and workers.”

Just how distracted was evidenced in a recent Transurban survey of Capital Beltway drivers. The survey found that:

  • 55 percent of survey respondents use their cell phone to call or read/write text messages while driving, or roughly 110,000 Beltway drivers daily.
  • In one year, the number of Beltway drivers reading text messages while driving increased by 47 percent.
  • 25 percent of drivers (one in every four cars) have experienced a near-miss due to distracted driving.
  • Half of distracted drivers say they are responding to work-related issues from the road.

Fifty-five of percent of respondents, however, indicated they have made changes to their cell phone behavior while driving in the Capital Beltway construction zone. “The Orange Cones. No Phones.” communications program was created to encourage even more drivers to change their driving habits.

As part of this effort, the team conducted a media relations campaign, presented information at high school assemblies, created-e-toolkits, and published materials featuring the “Orange Cones. No Phones.” slogan.

One of the highlights of the program was the Employer Safety Challenge announced at a press conference last November by Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. In 96 days, 106 area employers took an Employer Safety Pledge and received e-toolkits that included education and outreach materials such as HTML e-mails, fact sheets and video clips.

Transurban-Fluor/AAA also launched a High School Safety Challenge in Fairfax County and partnered with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to provide a national outreach program.

“Our research showed that distracted drivers are disproportionately young drivers,” adds Coffee. “They are also more receptive to messages from their peers, which was the impetus for the high school ‘Orange Cones. No Phones.’ competition.” As she explains, the competition asked students to develop a marketing campaign that would reduce distracted driving among their peers. The winning school received $5,000 to implement its campaign.

Like the Employer Safety Challenge, the partners’ national outreach program to DOTs across the country also included an e-toolkit. It provides an overview of building an “Orange Cones. No Phones.” campaign, a sample press release and fact sheet, media talking points, sample research questions, on-road signage artwork, banner advertisements, and evaluation tools.

Coffee emphasized that the e-toolkit provides DOTs with a turnkey, cost-effective way to generate awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and help reduce distracted driving incidents at a time when state and local budget are tight.

Preventing the unforeseeable

Last fall, a Flatiron Construction Corp. aerial lift was hit by a drunk driver. The incident, which involved two company employees on the lift, occurred inside a freeway closure at 3 a.m. Following the incident, the Colorado-based company formed a Protecting Work Zones Committee (PWZC) to analyze the incident, share best practices procedures for work zone protection, and develop training to educate workers.

“Before the incident we felt we did a good job of identifying hazards over which we have influence,” explains corporate safety training manager Damon Speyer. “After it, however, we realized our challenge was to try to prevent the unforeseeable. The committee spearheaded this effort.”

Comprised of company area mangers, senior executives, engineers, foremen, and supervisors, the committee initiated an employee awareness campaign with videos, posters, and handouts. It also developed a Traffic Control Basics training program.

Speyer notes that the program involves several levels of training. All personnel involved in traffic control procedures receive hazard awareness training. Then there are three levels of certified personnel:

  • Level 1, Advanced employees are certified to plan and execute all traffic control operations for work involving local streets, ramps, freeway lane, and up to full freeway closure.
  • Level 1, Drivers are licensed to tow double trailers in work zones.
  • Level 2, Basic employees are certified to plan and execute operations with flaggers, on simple city street closures and shoulders.

The committee also mandated that each project has its own work zone communication plan and instituted night work supervision policies, standard barrier protection guidelines when working inside closures, and minimum Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements.

“The November incident definitely opened our eyes to all possibilities, no matter how slight,” adds Speyer. “The committee’s work has not only created a safer work environment for employees, but by doing so it also allows them to feel more secure and be more productive while on the jobsite.”

“Not complicated”

Creating safety awareness need not be complicated, says Communications and Safety Clearinghouse Project Manager for ARTBA Lisa McCluskey. Whereas each of the award-winning projects approached getting out the safety message in different ways, the messages themselves shared a common bond — they created awareness. “Something as straightforward as applying red tags to damaged equipment can prevent an incident,” she adds. Being safe is about being aware.

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