Roadside work zones in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States continue to be the site of numerous fatalities. An average of 745 workers and non-workers die in work zones every year according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Despite various efforts at the state level to improve work zone safety, the numbers remain depressingly steady.
Most work zone deaths are the result of vehicle-related incidents. There are two types: intrusions, where a vehicle from outside enters the work zone, and back-over incidents, where a vehicle in the work zone backs up and strikes one of the employees. The Center for Construction Training and Research analyzed the 267 vehicle-related work zone deaths that arose between 2011 and 2016 and found that 61.4% were caused by forward-moving vehicles and 24.7% by vehicles backing up.
Construction site owners must do their part to ensure safety in work zones, first by having all workers wear the right high-visibility clothing and by conducting periodic inspections. Those about to operate equipment should do a “circle check” beforehand. A traffic control plan for both interior and exterior vehicles could be written up.
Technology can also help improve safety. Instead of having human flaggers, owners could consider Automated Flagger Assistance Devices. Queue warning systems can easily provide drivers with up-to-date information on what to expect in the work zone.
While employers are to strive for an accident-free work zone, this does not guarantee that employees will never be injured. Some may injure themselves through their own negligence. Either way, victims may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits, which can cover medical expenses, wage replacement and disability leave. Should they have their claim denied, victims would then have to file an appeal. To help ensure that everything goes smoothly, victims may want to hire a lawyer.