Working in construction is a dangerous job. In the past ten years, there have been 35 fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites throughout the state of New York. Last year alone there were seven. Everyone agrees that’s far too many, one reason NYS and the Federal Department of Transportation have designated one week in April to serve as National
Work Zone Safety Week.
Across the country, 80% of work zone fatalities are motorists, the rest workers. This past spring, New York legislators proposed a new Work Zone Safety Bill which would significantly increase fines and other penalties for motorists when infractions occur within an active work zone.
Drivers often fail to slow down as much as they should – or are instructed – within work zones. They’re impatient, and they may be distracted. That means they may not be paying attention to their own driving, let alone keeping an eye on you or the heavy equipment moving around them.
You have to look out for yourself.
Awareness marketing and beefed up threats may help reduce risks of injury and death, but there are things you can do to ensure your own safety when you’re working at road construction and other jobsites. Here are some of those key safety tips:
Study the job site safety plan.
Every jobsite has such a plan, and it’s up to you to make sure you know what it entails. Work zones also have a traffic control plan that defines specifically where vehicles can travel, where pedestrians can and cannot go and locations of barriers or other overt traffic control devices. Before you step onto the job site, memorize that plan. And be aware that sometimes the plan changes.
Be easy to see.
In addition to worrying about motorists, remember equipment operators have blind spots and their attention is focused on the work at hand.
- Wear your safety apparel everywhere you to around the job site.
- Stay away from moving equipment unless you need to be there.
- Know where the blind spots are for each type of machine in your work zone, so you don’t inadvertently stand there.
- Never turn your back on moving equipment if you’re working nearby – maintain eye contact with the operator so you know they see you.
- If equipment is parked, stand on the operator’s side or in front, again so you know they can see you.
Be extra vigilant at night.
Dusk and darkness reduce visibility for everyone, which increases risk of accidents and injuries. Glare from headlights and work site illumination can make the situation worse, as can poor weather conditions. On top of all that, motorists may be tired or stressed, and they may be confused by temporary traffic detours through the work zone. Good lighting is a must, and wearing your reflective safety apparel becomes even more critical.
Just because motorists may be distracted doesn’t mean you should be. Know the safety and traffic plans, be visible and keep safety top of mind as you work. When you’re “heads up,” you’ll be safer.