Roadway work zone safety and fatal occupational injuries

According to the Associated Press, a tractor-trailer in Western NY caused two town highway department employees to fall 30 feet after colliding with the employees’ vehicle. The extent of the employees’ injuries are not yet known, but they have both been hospitalized.

“Police tell local media outlets to say the town of Amherst employees Scott Charleson and Paul Mordaunt were working Monday morning in the raised platform of a tower truck parked under a banner over Main Street in the village of Williamsville…Officers say a tractor-trailer drove past and clipped the platform, sending the two men plunging to the street.” (Source: “2 western NY highway workers hurt in accident” via WSJ.com: October 2, 2012)

Despite numerous warning signs, increased fees for traffic violations in work zones, and comprehensive data about highway workers’ occupational safety, a significant problem still exists. The dangers of highway work and the construction industry in general still have a long way to go in terms of preventing occupational injuries, especially for injuries sustained while performing roadside work.

It is undoubtedly true that public awareness about highway work zone safety has increased, but a hard look at the data should be a welcome reminder for concerned motorists and workers.

Stephen Pegula’s study “Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites” (Monthly Labor Review: November 2010) observed that the increased number of fatal occupational injuries at roadway work zones has occurred against the backdrop of generally improved workplace safety, insofar as that is represented in the number of all fatal occupational injuries (which decreased):

“While total fatal occupational injuries declined nearly 10 percent from 1995 to 2007, fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites have increased in number and as a percentage of all fatal occupational injuries.”

The moral here is that road construction sites are becoming more hazardous to workers even in the workplace, in general, is becoming less hazardous. Here are some of the more recent trends (courtesy: CDC’s Highway Work Zone Safety)

  • Number of fatal crashes in construction and maintenance work zones (nationally): 716 (2008)
  • Number of fatal crashes in construction and maintenance work zones (nationally): 667 (2009)
  • Transportation incidents represent 72% of all roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries (2010)
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania ranks third highest in the number of worker fatalities that occurred in roadway work zones (2008-2010 – preliminary data).
  • From 2003 to 2007, a total of 8,103 deaths occurred in the construction industry, and almost 8% of the industry’s fatalities during this period (639) occurred while workers were in roadway work zones.
  • From 2003 to 2007, roadway construction deaths caused by vehicle collisions were more commonly associated with trucks over other types of vehicles (e.g., cars, vans, steam rollers)

The incident involving the tractor-trailer in Western NY is consistent with Pegula’s discussion of “fatal events”, which essentially is a breakdown of the determining factors attributed to roadway fatal occupational injuries. From 2003-2007 Pegula identified that roadway workers were more often struck (and killed) by construction-related vehicles than by cars. It is interesting to note that in this period, fatalities caused by trucks striking roadway workers represented 177 of the 305 fatalities caused by vehicle collisions. Meanwhile, car collisions represented a much small proportion of fatal collisions at 70 of the 305 fatalities.

Quoted below is Table 2 from Pegula’s “Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites”

Table 2: Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites due to workers being struck by vehicles or mobile equipment by type of vehicle or mobile equipment, 2003-07
 
Vehicle Fatalities
All cases 305
Truck 177
Car 70
Steam roller 15
Van 08
Backhoe 05
 

What do you think about this data? Were you surprised by trends and/or by the records which show that roadway workers have been struck more often by truck-type vehicles than by cars?

References and Additional Resources

“Workplace Safety and Health Topics: Highway Work Zone Safety (date unknown).” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 2 Oct 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/highwayworkzones/

 

Fatalities in Motor Vehicle Traffic by State (2010). The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. Retrieved 2 October 2012 from http://www.workzonesafety.org/crash_data/workzone_fatalities/2008

Pegula, Stephen (2010). Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites. Monthly Labor Review: November 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2012 from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2010/11/art3full.pdf

 

 

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — Authorities say two town highway department workers are hospitalized after they fell 30 feet from their truck’s basket platform when a tractor-trailer hit their vehicle while they were replacing a banner over a suburban Buffalo street.

Police tell local media outlets to say the town of Amherst employees Scott Charleson and Paul Mordaunt were working Monday morning in the raised platform of a tower truck parked under a banner over Main Street in the village of Williamsville.

Officers say a tractor-trailer drove past and clipped the platform, sending the two men plunging to the street.

The 46-year-old Charleson and the 52-year-old Mordaunt are at Erie County Medical Center with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The 35-year-old Syracuse man driving the tractor-trailer was ticketed for driving an oversized vehicle.

—Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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