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.”
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.