By Katie Chimelewski, director of safety & certification, ARTBA

The 20th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week kicked off April 20 with a first-ever online “stand-down” to prevent construction industry “struck-by” incidents. More than 650 attended the digital format, which was suited to the social distancing realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide wider distribution of key resources, listed below.

ARTBA’s Senior Vice President for Safety & Education Brad Sant moderated a panel of transportation construction industry safety experts. He noted that all construction sectors represent just 6 percent of the U.S. workforce, but have 12 percent of struck-by injuries, and 17 percent of fatalities. Highway, street and bridge construction has the most fatalities due to heavy equipment and work zone intrusions from nearby traffic.

“Over the past few years the trends for struck-by deaths and injuries have been increasing,” Sant said. “We have to do something about that.”

In March, 243 industry professionals responded to a survey about the challenge. They said that scheduling pressures and lack of training are the leading impediments to reducing the toll. The Awareness Week panel emphasized the importance of training:

  • Dave Dostaler, vice president of safety, Kraemer North America, noted it’s important to make new hires aware of the dangers and continue “formal and informal training.”
  • Travis Parsons, associate director of Occupational Safety and Health, Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America, said “toolbox talks” need to custom fit the workforce audience. He also urged more supervisor training, especially management “soft skills” to get more participation from crews.
  • Scott Earnest, acting director, NIOSH Construction Division, said “narratives and case studies are better received” by workers. He reminded the stand down that training needs to be in proper language and culturally sensitive
  • Jerral Wyer, (retired) Director of Occupational Safety and Health,  Texas Department of Transportation, said training should focus on a “play of the day,” or particular dangers as projects develop over time.
  • David Fosbroke, statistician, NIOSH Division of Safety Research, also participated in the panel.

 Here are links to key resources:

ARTBA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and other government and private sector organizations, including transportation planning and design firms and contractors, are leading this year’s safety awareness week activities. Many ARTBA members are participating in this year’s awareness week events, including the nation’s leading transportation construction contractors.

The stand-down panel also addressed the latest work zone challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including worker separation and equipment disinfection. Transportation construction firms are responding with staggered work schedules, extra shifts, and placing more restrictions on project access.