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Work Zone Safety

Highway repair and construction are a major source of work hours for LIUNA signatory employers and Laborers. Unfortunately, highway work zones can be among the most dangerous worksites in the construction industry.

Impact of Work Zone Hazards

Workers in highway work zones face many of the same potential hazards as construction workers in other settings, including runovers and backovers, heat stress and exposure to toxic substances like silica dust. However, they are also at unique risk for injuries and deaths from work zone intrusions. Laborers are injured and killed most often by motorist intrusions into work zones caused by speeding, impaired driving and distracted driving. In addition to physical risks, work zone intrusion incidents can also have detrimental mental health impacts on workers.

Addressing Work Zone Safety

While construction contractors can take steps like placing appropriate signage and lane markings that warn drivers of an approaching work zone, driver behavior alongside highway work zones can’t be fully controlled. Because of this limitation, the best way to protect workers from motorists is to divert traffic around the work zone entirely by sending drivers on an alternate route. This ensures a speeding vehicle never gets near a worker on foot.

When this is infeasible, best practices include the use of positive protection – devices that contain or redirect vehicles and meet crashworthiness criteria. The most common type of positive protection is the portable concrete barrier. Other types include steel barriers, movable concrete barriers (zipper type) and mobile steel barriers attached to a trailer. Shadow vehicles with energy-absorbing attenuators, vehicle-arresting systems and advanced safety systems can also help improve vehicle and road safety.

Digital navigation systems are another tool that can be used to alert drivers and protect vulnerable road workers, emergency responders and pedestrians from preventable collisions. These systems have been shown to reduce distracted driving by alerting drivers to upcoming work zones, incidents and hazards in real time.

Fund Resources & Services

Improving work zone safety is an important focus of the Fund’s Occupational Safety and Health Division.

  • Use the Recent Articles or All Related Articles tabs above to view Lifelines articles on this topic or browse our Work Zone Safety publications.
  • In collaboration with the the American Road & Transportation Builders’ Association (ARTBA), the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Texas Transportation Institute, the Fund continues to advocate for state and local municipalities to develop automated speed enforcement policies for roadway work zones.
  • The Fund continues to work with industry partners to increase the use of positive protection on road jobs using mechanisms such as reimbursement through safety contingency funding.

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