April 23-27 is set aside as the week to remind drivers to be aware of the workers who build and repair our highways and bridges.  Those workers must face not only speeding drivers, but the hazards of working around heavy equipment, as well.  From the time you see a flagger, slow down to the speed limit and drive with care.  He/she will be wearing a high viz safety vest, so they are not that hard to spot.  These are state and/or contract workers who have the duty to keep our roads operable, in addition to building new ones, because of the growing demands of more and more traffic.  They want to go home when their shift is complete, just as the rest of us.  Working in all types of weather is another factor that they contend with, just to keep us rolling. 

Each year in April, National Work Zone Awareness Week is held to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones.  Since 1999, FHWA has worked with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Safety Services Association to coordinate and sponsor the event.  Other transportation partners have joined the effort to support NWZAW, over the thirteen years that this observance has been highlighted.  This years’ theme is “Don’t Barrel Through Work Zones! Drive Smart to Arrive Alive!” 

We also want to share this information from OSHA, who renewed an alliance with the Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners to protect workers while working in roadway construction work zones.  The Alliance will concentrate on preventing worker injuries and deaths from construction vehicle runovers and backovers by focusing on increased outreach to non-English-speaking or limited-English-speaking workers.  David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said, “most fatalities that occur in road construction work zones involve a worker being struck by a piece of equipment or other vehicle.  This group of concerned Partners will help reach workers and employers with critical education and information to reduce preventable injuries and death.”  

The Alliance will provide fact sheets for paramedics, police officers, truck drivers and other work zone visitors on the proper personal protective equipment and high-visibility apparel to wear, and how to enter and exit a work zone during the day and night.  Additional fact sheets will also be developed for less knowledgeable contractors detailing which traffic control requirements apply, particularly focusing on short-term temporary work zones. 

The Partners comprise a group of construction industry associates committed to protecting the health, safety and rights of workers, and understanding the responsibilities of employers, representing more than 1.2 million members and workers nationwide.  Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.  OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance.  

When you see the signs indicating that there is Road Work within so many miles, you might also notice that the fine for speeding through these work zones doubles.  So not only are you respecting the safety of the workers, you can keep a little more money in your billfold by being extra cautious!  Drive friendly!