Road construction fatalities climbed through 2016
- According to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, construction research and training organization CPWR found that from 2011 to 2016, 532 construction workers died on road construction sites. The figure was twice the amount of other industries — such as utilities, transportation and more — combined.
- From 2003 to 2016, the 1,269 worker deaths at road construction sites made up approximately 9% of all construction deaths each year. In addition, during that same period, the number of road construction worker deaths rose 40% from 72 in 2013 to 103 in 2016. Approximately 50% of road construction site deaths were a result of workers being hit by a vehicle or piece of equipment, and those in the position of crossing guard or paving/surface operator were at the most risk of being killed. More than 70% of road construction site deaths happened in the course of performing street, bridge and highway work, followed by utility and site preparation.
- African American workers were the group most likely to be killed at a road construction site, the study found. Almost 29% of fatalities involved individuals ages 45 to 54, followed by 21% of those ages 35 to 44. As highway work to repair and upgrade old infrastructure increases, so does the risk of injury and death to road construction workers. The organization recommends prevention measures such as increased lighting and reflective clothing; barriers and traffic control; warning systems for workers and drivers; engineering controls and increased awareness of the risks.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, another way companies can reduce the chances that one of their workers will be hit by a car or other vehicle at a roadside work area is by altering their schedules so that work takes place at night when there are fewer vehicles on the road. This can also provide crews with cooler working temperatures during the summer months. However, there are some disadvantages to night work, including a greater chance impaired drivers and speeders will be traveling through the zone and worker fatigue due to schedule changes.
The potential for injury and death to road construction workers is one of the reasons that some companies have turned to accelerated bridge construction (ABC) methods, which take construction offsite. During the construction phase, traffic around and through the area of the future bridge site continues as normal. It is only when installation of the bridge takes place that traffic is diverted, and this is typically for a limited period of time. In some cases, crews can complete that final task in just a few days.
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