Marshall Turner, 55 and James “Bubba” Rains, 34 were part of an asphalt paving crew, working on I-55 in Crittenden County, Arkansas. On the evening of April 16, 2013, a pick-up truck driven by an Illinois man swerved into the closed-off construction work zone and struck Turner and Rains. Both men were fatally injured.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, on average, 110 workers are killed each year while working in roadway and highway work zones. In 2011, the most recent year in which data is available, the number of fatalities was 119. Thirteen of the deaths occurred in Texas, the State with the highest number of occupational work zone deaths.
As I drove through Michigan recently, I captured this photo of a road sign. It was situated about a quarter mile before a work zone. It read:
“Injure/Kill a Worker, Fine $7500 Jail 15 years.”
Currently, the State of Michigan has the steepest penalties of any U.S. State for causing an injury or fatality in a roadway work zone.
Other States also have enhanced penalties. In Florida, Louisiana and Nebraska, patrol officers and police will assess double the regular fine if a driver is caught speeding in a work zone where workers are present. You’ve probably seen the signs:
“Fines Doubled When Workers are Present”
Other States go further. Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey and a few others, will assess double the regular fine for any moving violation no matter if workers are present or not.
More than 12 years ago, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health convened a group of experts to discuss ways to better protect workers in highway construction work zones. Their report “Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries from Vehicles and Equipment” included dozens of recommendations for road builders, contracting agencies, and federal, state and local policy makers. Some of the recommendations for road construction contractors are:
- Assign a traffic control supervisor who is knowledgeable in traffic control principles overall responsibility for the safety of the work zone set-up;
- Where provided for in contract documents, increase the size of the lateral bufferzone to reduce worker exposure to passing motorists;
- Carefully review the Traffic Control Plan (TCP) and, during contract negotiation, negotiate with the contracting agency as to revisions to the TCP that are needed to ensure worker safety; and
- Authorize the traffic control supervisor to temporarily halt work until unsafe conditions related to temporary traffic control have been eliminated.
Just a few of the recommendations for contracting agencies include requirements in the contracts:
- Use of best practice guidelines such as the U.S. Dept of Transportation’s Millennium Edition of Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD);
- Use of truck-mounted attenuators (TMAs) …placed on the upstream, lateral, or downstream sides of traffic flow to physically isolate the work space. They may be particularly useful in moving work zones, where they can move forward as work progresses to protect workers from being struck from behind by traffic vehicles; and
- Rerouting all traffic to one side of a multi-lance highway, or complete road closures.
Recommendations for OSHA include:
- Revise its construction industry regulations to require adherence to the Millenium Edition of the MUTCD in place of the 1971 version.
I haven’t been able to identify a source listing the State or Federal agencies which have adopted any of the recommendations in their contract requirements. Do you know of one?