In Georgia and across the U.S., roadside work zones continue to be dangerous places for both workers and non-workers. An average of 745 people die in them each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of workers alone, an average of 123 die each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unfortunately, the numbers are not going down despite state-wide efforts to do something about them.
That’s why construction employers should feel encouraged to do what they can to improve safety. It starts with knowing what kind of incidents lead up to most of these fatalities. The answer is vehicle-related incidents, especially the intrusion of outside vehicles and backover incidents involving work equipment. Distracted driving and speeding contribute to many of these.
That was the conclusion of a 2018 study from the Center for Construction Training and Research. Of the 267 vehicle-related fatalities recorded between 2011 and 2016, 61.4% were caused by forward-moving vehicles and 24.7% by backover incidents.
To protect their employees, employers can start by establishing a traffic control plan, having spotters direct traffic and having operators perform a “circle check” for any workers in their equipment’s blind spots. Workers must meet ANSI/ISEA standards for high-visibility clothing. For long-duration projects, employers might consider concrete barriers for the work zone.
Employers should strive for a 100% accident-free zone. In addition to being the right thing to do, it will help prevent workers’ compensation cases. Victims, for their part, can file workers’ comp claims regardless of any questions regarding fault. They can even file an appeal if the employer denies payment at first. The process can get complicated, so it may be advisable to see an attorney. Legal counsel may explain how, in certain cases, victims may strive for a liability or non-liability settlement.