Construction Safety Hits the Road

PRIME paving season is here for much of the United States, causing highway work zones to sprout and renewing efforts to spread the gospel of safety to workers and motorists alike. To publicize National Work Zone Awareness Week 2004 in April, sponsors put a desk out on I-95 to show that real, live workers are at risk inside the zones.

Work zone safety unites the government, labor, and management. OSHA signed an alliance last fall with The Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Coalition, which includes the Laborers' International Union of North America, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the International Union of Operating Engineers, NIOSH, and the 5,000 members of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association--2,000 of which are contractors. The partners agreed to develop hazard awareness training and to educate non-English-speaking construction workers about safe practices in work zones.

ARTBA turned a $160,000 Susan Harwood grant from OSHA into a four-hour safety seminar this year and is taking it on the road to 15 states. ARTBA Safety Director Jerry Teeler said the seminar tackles the six highest priorities identified by CNA, one of the biggest U.S. construction insurers, as costing the most in claims: material handling, struck-by incidents, mounting and dismounting from equipment, on-road vehicle accidents, caught-in injuries/pinch points, and repetitive motion injuries.

Teeler agreed there's much work to be done to raise road construction workers' use of PPE such as high-vis apparel. "Visibility is absolutely essential," he said before heading to the first stop, Orlando, in March. "Another thing we're looking to do with this training is to get those (PPE usage) numbers up with the people who are doing the work. We try to get that done in the management commitment part of it."

Teeler joined the association in February after working in safety management positions for contractor firms in North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, and Mexico. His fluency in Spanish is a big asset as he takes the seminar to New England this month, then to Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Washington state, and Illinois. "Hopefully we can extend the grant and keep it going beyond the 15 states," he said.

Many people put their sweat and money into work zone safety. ARTBA produced an awareness program for teens and new drivers and delivered 5,000 copies recently to safe driving groups. The association also continues to award scholarships to youngsters of workers killed in highway zones. As 2004's paving season dawned, about 30 kids in a dozen states had received them.

This article originally appeared in the May 2004 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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