April 20th-24th, 2020 is National Work Zone Awareness Week! Why do we need National Work Zone Awareness Week? Are work zones that dangerous? Yes! Work zones can be incredibly dangerous to both work crews and passing drivers. For example:
- There were 25,000 injury-involved crashes in work zones across the United States in 2017
- Fifty-four percent of highway contractors reported that motor vehicles had crashed into their construction zones during the past year.
- In 2017, a crash occurred in a zone approximately once every 5.6 minutes.
In connection with this year’s theme, “Safe Work Zones for All: Protect workers. Protect road users.”, we want to share some safety tips on how both contractors and commuters can both do their part in making work zones safer for all!
What Drivers Can Do to Assist in Work Zones
Improving work zone safety is also the responsibility of drivers traveling through the zone. After all, workers are not only the ones in danger in an unsafe zone. Of the 754 work zone fatalities in 2018, only approximately 16% were workers in the zone.
- Follow the posted speed limit. Speeding in the work zone is one of the leading causes of crashes. In fact, in 2017, speeding was a factor in 203 of the 720 fatal crashes in work zones in the United States. Remember, workers in the zone may only be just feet away from your speeding vehicle at any given point.
- Eliminate distractions, such as using your cell phone, eating/drinking, or even changing the radio station. In a study done by researchers at the University of Missouri, “drivers are 29 times more likely to be in a collision or narrowly avert one if distracted for any length of time while passing through a work zone.” By simply just focusing on driving, you can drastically decrease your chances of being in a collision.
- Maintain a safe following distance and expect the unexpected. Suddenly slowing vehicles and changing working conditions frequently happen in zones. By maintaining a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you, you allow yourself more time to react accordingly.
What Contractors Can Do to Assist in the Work Zone
- Make sure your TMA truck is built up to best standards. The TMA truck is the last line of defense in protecting the work crew from errant vehicles entering the zone causing potential injury or even death. An improperly built TMA truck is almost as dangerous as no truck at all. Here’s what you need to look for in a TMA truck to make sure it is as safe as it can possibly be:
- At least 20,000lbs and ballasted properly. By weighing at least 20,000lbs, roll-ahead distance is reduced compared to a lighter truck. In addition, you need to ensure the truck is ballasted properly to achieve this weight. Jersey barriers or concrete blocks chained to the deck of the truck are not safe!
- Equipped with air brakes. Air brakes provide an unlimited supply of air so the brake system can never run out of its operating fluid. Hydraulic brakes are not recommended for TMA trucks. Upon impact, hydraulic brakes can fail, allowing the truck to free-wheel into your work zone. Parking brake housing consists of 2 small brake shoes that hold the drive shaft by using the cable tension of the hand brake. These small brake shoes can explode with the impact of a heavy vehicle, lunging the truck forward in the zone.
- Equipped with a MASH-approved attenuator. Simply put, MASH-approved attenuators have been tested in conditions that match what is happening in real construction zones. If the attenuator on your truck is not MASH-approved, your workers are not as safe as they possibly can be.
- Ensure your workers are properly trained. Even if your TMA truck is built to best safety practices, if your workers are under-trained, not only does it put themselves at risk, but passing drivers are also put in danger. In this industry, a mistake can possibly lead to fatal outcomes. Traditional training programs of the past, such as training manuals or instructional videos, are failing to adequately prepare workers for the zone. The solution? Virtual reality training has been proven to increase retention rate, shorten training time, and has the potential to lessen liability claims for a company! Learn more here.
Making work zones safer is everyone’s responsibility! Stay tuned all week on our social media channels for more National Work Zone Awareness Week information!