Not-So-Fun Facts About Work Zone Accidents

Last week, my associate editor, Kimberley Schmitt, and I visited a paving jobsite on I-39 near DeKalb, IL. Our friends from Curran Contracting graciously allowed us to watch some shoulder paving they were doing with warm mix asphalt for the Illinois Tollway. (Watch for the article in our October issue.)

While we stood watching the paving and compacting work, cars, trucks, buses and more were flying past. Even if those vehicles were doing the posted 45 mph speed limit, it felt like they were going much faster. It really hit home the dangerous work conditions road builders are in every day and night.

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), on average, there are over 7,000 work zone motor vehicle crashes in Illinois every year. In 2011, 24 people died in work zones, 21 of those deaths were the drivers or passengers of vehicles, one was a pedestrian and two were construction workers.

As a way to emphasize the deadly seriousness of the situation, IDOT uses its traffic update signs to display the number of Illinois roadway fatalities this year. On the day we visited in mid-August, the number was 594. “Unfortunately, that number never gets smaller,” says Joelle McGinnis with the Illinois Tollway. “But we hope people will see it and slow down.”

According the Federal Highway Association (FHWA), each year nationwide over 20,000 workers are injured in road construction work zones. Between 2003-2008, these injuries were caused by:

  • Contact with objects, equipment (35%)
  • Slips, trips, or falls (20%)
  • Overexertion (15%)
  • Transportation incidents (12%)
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments (5%)

There were 103 workplace fatalities at road construction sites in 2010 (the last year data was available for from the FHWA). Fatalities at road construction sites typically account for 1.5% to 3% of all workplace fatalities annually. The primary causes of worker fatalities in recent years were:

  • Runovers/backovers (often by dump trucks): 48%
  • Collision between vehicles/mobile equipment: 14%
  • Caught in between/struck by construction equipment and objects: 14%

Training your crews to handle the dangers of a road building construction site is imperative to their safety.

VISTA Training has recently released its Road Crew Safety Instructor Kit, which is a complete training package for conducting professional training with a focus on the safety of the equipment operators and nearby crews.

The training covers the dangers of working near equipment; avoiding common accidents; awareness of surroundings; PPE/visibility/night work; basic traffic control device and flagger topics. For more information, visit vista-training.com.

What kind of training does your company provide for your work crews? I’d love to hear; drop me a line at Lisa.Cleaver@cygnus.com or call 920-563-1673. Stay safe out there!

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