Few contractors asked to list their assets would list their employees first, but any contractor who can't find good workers knows what his most important asset is. You can have the best equipment with all the bells and whistles the market offers, but if you don't have qualified and responsible people to run your equipment, what have you really got? And just as you have maintenance programs to protect your equipment assets, you need to protect your labor. This time of year, with crews reforming after winter downtime and with new workers joining the industry, safety education is the best way to protect your crews.
Last year almost 1,100 workers died in accidents that occurred in work zones. On April 5, with the kick-off of the annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, safety and government officials met in Maryland within sight of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to pay tribute to accident victims and to call attention to safety in work zones. The American Traffic Safety Services Association and other organizers of the event are to be applauded for successfully bringing the work zone safety issue to the public.
But contractors can do more. The time to pay tribute to your workers is now, as the season starts, and it's every day throughout the season. And you can best pay tribute by keeping them safe. Whether working on-road or off-road, your workers encounter traffic. They might work near traffic traveling at high speed or they might work in a parking lot where traffic is re-routed around a work zone. So it's your responsibility to provide protection, in the form of education and protective gear, to your workers; it is your workers' responsibility to absorb what you tell them and use the safety tools you provide. There are dozens of ways to create a safe working environment, but all rely on education and awareness. So designate a person in your company to create, monitor, and run a safety program. Hold an early-season meeting reminding workers about how to work safely in work zones. Support your pre-season meeting with weekly meetings devoted to a single safety topic and any issues that might have come up. Hold a safety meeting any time job conditions change. And don't skimp on protective gear and equipment. Your best assets will take safety only as seriously as you do, so protect them by making safety a priority.