Overcoming the Dangers of Highway Work Zones

Construction workers on highway infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and tunnels are exposed to hazards every day. On large sites with a lot of heavy machinery, measures have to be taken to address the risks of workers being struck by distracted motorists, equipment or objects, for instance. As a leading construction and development company, we are uniquely positioned to strive to achieve zero incidents on our sites while also influencing the industry and its stakeholders. We are committed to the safety of our people. It’s important to us that our workers arrive home to their families every day the same way they arrived to work – safe and sound.

The Halo Light, which many Skanksa crews use, is a personal safety system that makes workers more visible, while also increasing their efficiency. The innovative safety device, which attaches to hardhats, provides 360° illumination visible over ¼ mile away in any direction, while lighting the entire task area.

But hazardous elements exist outside the work zone too, especially on large transportation and infrastructure projects. So, as much as we provide rigorous safety plans for our construction project teams, the community needs to be diligent as well. It’s a two-way street.  When you consider that motorists are often asked to drive through a complex array of signs, barrels and lane changes in work zones, driving cautiously can go a long way in keeping both motorists and workers safe.

This time of year, maybe more so than any other season, presents an increased likelihood for incidents. Winter weather conditions can make driving challenging, and shorter daylight hours can impede visibility.

Working with a customer that understands that there are no compromises when it comes to safety makes for a true partner. Creating a safe environment in work zones is critical. It’s a responsibility for the construction company and customer, and having diligent motorists are essential to creating a safe atmosphere for everyone. Working together, we can create work zones with good signage, safety barricades and more to make sure everyone from workers to motorists are safe.

Here are some safety tips for motorists from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration:

Stay alert and minimize distractions. Avoid changing the radio station, using a mobile phone, eating or other activities that can remove your concentration from the road.

Keep your headlights on. In active construction sites, it’s as important the workers see you coming as it is you see them.

Pay attention to the road. Watch brake lights on vehicles ahead. Watch traffic around you and be prepared to react.

Merge into the proper lane. Merge well before you reach the lane closure. Be aware that traffic patterns can change daily.

Don’t tailgate. Follow other vehicles at a safe distance.

Obey the posted speed limit. Workers may be present just feet away. Fines may be double for moving traffic violations. Be prepared to slow down further if conditions indicate the need. If you’re traveling 30 miles, chances are speeding will save you mere seconds of time on your trip while on the freeway. Slowing down in work zones won’t add time to your trip and can save lives. Here’s the math to back it up.

Change lanes safely. Change lanes only where pavement markings indicate, and only when traffic conditions permit.

Follow instructions from flaggers. These workers, while vulnerable standing in active moving lanes, are critical to ensure safe passage in a construction zone. Be mindful and cognizant of the directions they are providing, and watch your speed.

Expect the unexpected. Workers, work vehicles, or equipment may enter your lane without warning. Other vehicles may slow, stop, or change lanes unexpectedly.

Be patient. Construction won’t last forever so remember the minor inconvenience you are experiencing or feeling today will be short-lived in comparison to the improvements in the long run.

Being mindful while driving can help save a life. We will do our part to keep everyone safe. We hope drivers will, too.

Clark Peterson

Clark Peterson

Vice President, Environmental, Health and Safety

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