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The LHSFNA Fights to Protect Roadway Workers

LIUNA General President
Terry O’Sullivan

Every day, several LHSFNA staff members work on various committees and councils to fight for changes that protect workers’ safety and health. The Fund’s Safety and Health Specialist, Ryan Papariello, sits on OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH), which advises the agency on construction standards and policy matters. On this month’s agenda: making strides towards much-needed safety protections for vulnerable roadway workers.

“With LIUNA members being put to work repairing this country’s outdated roads and bridges, worker safety needs to remain paramount,” said LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “LIUNA and the LHSFNA continue to advocate for worker protections that go beyond the bare minimum. It’s time to address the dire need for comprehensive traffic control measures that will save lives on roadway construction sites.”

Historically, one of the most dangerous work environments in the construction industry is the roadway. Hundreds of workers are injured or killed in roadway work zones every year, often due to intrusions from public motorists or incidents between workers on foot and construction vehicles. What makes these incidents especially tragic is that they’re largely avoidable with proper safety protocols. Work zone safety is a long-term, widespread issue that’s been a focus at the Fund for quite some time. In early March, Papariello proposed to the ACCSH that OSHA initiate rulemaking that would require employers to adopt safeguards protecting workers on roadway construction sites.

“We hear these stories constantly,” Papariello explained to the committee. “I received a call this morning about one of our members that was struck by a vehicle in a work zone who’s now in critical condition. These stories are extremely sad, but they’re also extremely preventable.”

The best way to protect workers from motorists is to divert drivers from a work zone entirely. While doing this isn’t feasible on every jobsite, there are still a variety of controls and digital technologies that can be used to manage traffic and prevent injuries.

Perhaps the most comprehensive strategy to protect workers on the employer’s side of the barrier is implementing an internal traffic control plan (ITCP). An ITCP coordinates and controls the flow of construction vehicles, equipment and workers to improve worker safety. ITCPs help a project manager design and operate a jobsite to limit the movement of large vehicles and reduce interactions between workers on foot and construction vehicles. This decreases the likelihood of runovers, backovers and other motor vehicle/heavy equipment-related incidents.

Industry professionals may be familiar with temporary traffic control (TTC), which describes how to set up a work zone safely for the motoring public. TTC is standard practice, but focuses primarily on the public instead of workers. ITCPs, on the other hand, are designed to protect workers and are recognized as a best practice. There are some consensus standards in place for ITCPs, such as ANSI A10.47 Work Zone Safety for Roadway Construction (which requires ITCPs that minimize backing and other incidents between workers and work vehicles through travel route diagrams). However, consensus standards aren’t law and OSHA has no standard mandating the use of ITCPs in work zones. As long-standing advocates for worker safety, the LHSFNA believes OSHA should incorporate a standard that addresses ITCPs and better protects workers on foot from moving vehicles and heavy equipment at work.

“We need to look on the other side of the barricade and at work zones,” Papariello said to the ACCSH committee. “OSHA must implement a rule that requires employers to use ITCPs. These control plans need to be codified to protect roadway workers.”

At the latest ACCSH meeting, Papariello made a formal proposal to the committee regarding this issue. His motion was as follows:

“ACCSH recommends OSHA review and report back to the committee on the use of industry consensus language to protect roadway workers, specifically the setup of ITCPs, and consider long-term rulemaking.”

The motion passed, with 12 members voting for and three voting against. Voting members of the committee include representatives from employer groups, employee groups, state agencies and federal OSHA. The next step is for OSHA to present industry consensus language to the full committee. Once this occurs, discussions will continue in the committee’s workgroups, which currently revolve around infrastructure.

Fund staff will continue to promote progressive safety and health guidelines that protect LIUNA members and all workers. For more information about ITCPs and work zone safety, visit the Fund’s Work Zone Safety page. LIUNA affiliates that are registered and logged in on our website can also order the following work zone safety publications:

[Hannah Sabitoni]

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