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Preventing Accidents at Road Construction Zones

One worker was killed and another injured when an SUV ran into their equipment at a construction zone on the Garden State Parkway. The SUV hit the work equipment that then struck the workers and a pickup truck.

One worker was pronounced dead at the scene. Two others were taken to local hospitals.

The incident illustrates the hazards that road construction workers face every day. Between 2007 and 2012, an average of 669 fatalities occurred each year in construction and maintenance work zones. The worst year for construction zone fatalities was 2003, when 1,095 workers and motorists died. In 2012, the number had declined to 609.

Most of these numbers reflect motorist deaths in accidents that occurred in construction zones. However, in 2012, 130 worker deaths occurred, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Vehicles backing up caused 11 of the deaths to workers.

The occupations in which there were the most deaths were construction laborers, highway maintenance workers, heavy truck drivers, supervisors, and construction equipment operators. These workers represented 75 percent of on the job fatalities in construction zones.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has developed guidelines for preventing road construction accidents. Recommendations include:

  • Use equipment that minimizes blind areas
  • Develop and enforce safety procedures for night work
  • Design worksites in such a way to minimize the need to back up
  • Make sure that supervisors are trained in safety and safety instruction
  • Require that drivers backing vehicles use a spotter
  • Develop procedures for communicating changes in work site
  • Install signs at site to guide workers to safe walking paths that take them away from moving vehicles

Other recommendations involve areas such as vehicle inspection, servicing of vehicles, training, communication standards and standards for workers on foot. Implementation of safety standards will go a long way to reducing the number of worker fatalities at road construction sites, according to NIOSH.