Construction work can be dangerous work no matter where it is taking place. But one particularly dangerous type of construction work is highway work. With warming temperatures and longer daylight hours, we are sure to see more and more construction work beginning on our highways. In fact, April 23-27 is National Work Zone Awareness Week, with many activities taking place right here in the greater St. Louis area. With the warmer weather, there will be more Illinois drivers and Missouri drivers which means the likelihood of Missouri car crashes and Illinois car crashes increasing is higher. This means that Missouri highway and road workers and Illinois highway and road workers are at a higher risk of injury – whether that be from falling objects, or inattentive drivers.
According to the CDC, each year in the United States, there are approximately 100 worker fatalities in highway work zones. These zones are dangerous not just because of the large machinery and equipment common to many construction zones, but also because highway work zones—by their nature—have non-construction workers constantly entering into the area. It is these vehicles and equipment that are involved in over half of the worker fatalities in the industry. In fact non-construction vehicles account for about half of the vehicle-related fatalities among highway workers.
But a look at numbers beyond just worker fatalities paints a picture of where the dangers for workers come from. Each year over 20,000 workers are injured in road construction work zones. These injuries are caused by: contact with objects and equipment (35%); slips, trips or falls (20%); overexertion (15%); transportation incidents (12%); and exposure to harmful substances (5%).
The majority of worker fatalities are caused when workers are struck by vehicles or mobile equipment, usually construction equipment and most often dump trucks. The second leading cause of worker fatalities are workers caught between or struck by construction equipment and objects. And collisions between vehicles and equipment are the third most common cause of worker fatality.
Without a doubt, drivers travelling through work zones have a role to play in promoting workplace safety for road workers. But there is much work to be done in other areas as well to make sure that road workers have a safe environment to work in and reduce the number of roadway injuries.