In 2005, over 1,000 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes occurring in highway work zones across the United States. Better educating workers about safety issues can help them avoid dangerous, even deadly situations.
The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) is part of a broad consortium awarded a grant by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to develop and conduct work zone safety training. “The advantage of partnering through the consortium is that each of the organizations can leverage its strength in making the educational efforts successful,” says Scott Schneider, director of occupational safety and health for Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), which is affiliated with the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA). LHSFNA is the lead partner for the consortium. Other partners include the Laborers-AGC Training Fund, American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), CNA Insurance, the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and the National Asphalt Paving Association (NAPA).
“Bringing all these players to the table represents a major effort by FHWA to make work zones safer for motorists and highway workers alike,” explains Jerry Ullman, manager of TTI’s Work Zone and Dynamic Message Sign Program.
The principal goals of the project are to develop guidelines and conduct safety training for highway workers, contractors and transportation agency personnel. Specific details about the consortium and the work zone safety program in general are available on the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse website (see http://www.workzonesafety.org/fhwa_wz_grant).
TTI is providing expertise in work zone traffic control research and development, helping to ensure that the guidelines and training materials being created are based on objective data and real-world experiences of work zone personnel. Ullman and his team will help incorporate the refined guidelines into existing materials as well as help develop new materials, such as an interactive CD-ROM aimed at work zone supervisory personnel.
Getting the best knowledge available in the hands (and heads) of those individuals who can most positively impact safety in work zones is of paramount importance. Organizations like LIUNA can work with private contractors to get the guidelines in the hands of those that need them most, namely the organizations and personnel who do the work. Meanwhile, associations like AASHTO and ARTBA can work with state departments of transportation to adapt the guidelines to their procedures. Covering both the private and public aspects of work zone construction will help ensure that the word gets out.
“TTI’s expertise will play an integral role in creating guidelines that are both useful and implementable,” says Schneider.