Road work is a dangerous, time-consuming process as construction teams must carefully prepare work sites while looking out for traffic and ensuring they adequately protect both themselves and drivers. This risk is further complicated by an inability to completely control the work environment, and construction teams must be incredibly careful about preparing work sites to keep everyone safe.
A recent study from the Oregon Department of Transportation found that work zones provide much more risk for drivers than they do for workers, and significant effort needs to be made to ensure safety, particularly in transition zones.
Work zone fatalities must be dealt with
Through the period of 2010 through 2014, approximately 477 vehicle crashes took place in road work zones annually in Oregon. On average, there were 17 crashes leading to serious injuries and seven with fatalities during that period. Nationally, the number of fatalities is also high, with the lowest total coming in 2013 at 569, and the highest in 2014, with 669 fatalities taking place due to vehicle crashes in work zones.
The study found that construction workers are rarely involved in serious accidents. Instead, the majority of incidents take place in the transition zones around work areas. This isn’t to say that workers aren’t at risk – road construction professionals were found to be six times more likely to be injured or killed on the job than individuals in other fields – but drivers face even greater danger. In Oregon, approximately 80 percent of road construction work zone fatalities were drivers or their passengers.
Preparing for construction – through improved signage, better public awareness campaigns, training and investing in advanced traffic control devices – is critical moving forward, and the study highlighted these sorts of strategies among the many tactics the state is taking to prepare for its next road construction season.
Getting ahead of work zone risks
Training and continuing education can set a foundation for safety within road construction zones. As new tools become available to ensure drivers are able to move safely through transition zones and enter work areas with minimal risk, construction professionals can use training to fully understand how best to deploy those technologies. Training plays an essential role in turning new technologies and solutions into actionable results, especially for busy construction teams that must set up and clean up quickly to maximize productivity during the times they have available to complete road work.