National Work Zone Awareness Week is April 7–14. This year’s theme is “Work Zone Speed: A Costly Mistake.”
Every state in the country is participating in NWZAW, holding poster contests, renting billboards, making mascots and more. The Virginia Department of Transportation will ask motorists to drive with their headlights on and tie orange ribbons to car antennas. Little Rock, Ark., cautions motorists to watch out in work zones by proclaiming the week as the beginning of road construction season another reason the awareness week is held in April, according to James Scott Baron, director of communications and public relations for the American Traffic Safety Services Association.
Atlanta will hold its “Georgia Struck-By Alliance Safety Stand Down” at various job sites to recognize the week. During this event, construction site workers will voluntarily stop work to be trained about work zone safety issues.
“Because the majority of our roadways are from the 1950s they require constant repairs; so there are more work zones than there have ever been. Work zones are part of the American landscape and will be for years to come,” Baron said.
It’s essential that work zones employ the most effective safety products.
Positive protection such as concrete or steel barriers, which
separate workers from traffic, offer a greater degree of safety for the
workers, Baron noted.
Alice Fiman of the Washington State Department of Transportation
communications office said that while the city of Seattle is
thrilled to have been chosen as host for the week’s kick-off event,
“We don’t just celebrate work zone safety we emphasize it every
day. Our crews have proactivity safety meetings and all of us on the
communications team talk about it with media when we talk about
construction.” As part of the festivities, Seattle citizens are encouraged
to wear orange.
According to Baron the yearly event has been credited with radically reducing the rate of fatalities associated with work zones. In its first year, 1999, the average rate of nearly 900 people who died nationwide in work zones 4 out of 5 of those being motorists fell by almost half.
David Rich, president of work zone safety company Site-Safe, said there isn’t, in his opinion, one “best” product to order for work zone safety. Instead, he sees it as being situational.
All too often there are just cones and barrels in an active work zone. While concrete barriers offer more in the way of safety, portable steel barriers are lighter and take up less space on a truck. Only 100 feet of concrete barriers can fit on a truck, versus up to 800 feet of steel barriers.
Temporary rumble strips are also popular. Made of rubber, they’re light enough that one person can handle them, and they can be picked up and moved as needed. Strips also alert motorists and provide an audible warning to workers. Drivers who run over rumble strips tend to drive 8–10 MPH slower, said Rich — drastically reducing the number of accidents in a work zone.
Baron also recommends reflective signage, which has been around for a long time and is highly effective at getting drivers’ attention.
Both truck-mounted attenuators and/or water filled barrels help bring vehicles to a controlled stop in the event of an accident. The cushions absorb energy and allow for deceleration of the vehicle, Rich said.
Resources and products
The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse at www.workzonesafety.org posts federal and state laws and regulations, in addition to state-qualified product lists. It includes free work zone safety materials such as posters, brochures and fact sheets.
The Federal Highway Administration requires that all work zone traffic control devices on the National Highway System be crash-worthy, and many companies sell such approved safety equipment.
When it comes to buying the appropriate equipment for a road construction project, “each work zone is a little different,” Rich said. He recommends consultation, but too often he sees the misapplication of new products by designers and consulting engineers. Getting up-to-date information is crucial: websites and expositions can educate purchasers, preventing costly mistakes — in more ways than one.