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National Work Zone Awareness Week is Back and Bigger Than Ever

National Work Zone Awareness Week returns! The annual spring campaign taking place from April 15th to 19th hosted by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) aims to encourage safe driving through highway work zones. Held each year before the start of the construction season, the event underscores the life-threatening risk of inattention within work zones, where even a momentary lapse in focus can have life-threatening consequences. This year’s theme, “Work Zones are temporary. Actions behind the wheel can last forever,” highlights the long-lasting impact of driving decisions. In honour of National Work Zone Awareness Week, this month’s blog is set to spotlight work zone safety, sharing essential safety statistics and best practices to keep everyone safe on the road.

Why National Work Zone Awareness Week is Important

The message seems clear: slow down and be cautious when driving through work zones. Yet, despite this simple directive, statistics continue to reveal a troubling reality for road workers. In 2022, the construction industry, saw 1,056 workplace fatalities, marking an 11 percent increase from 2021. This sector accounted for almost 20 percent of all workplace deaths and ranked second highest in fatalities across industries. Specifically focusing on work zone fatalities, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported 956 deaths in 2021. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 108 occupational fatalities among highway workers at road construction sites within the same year. But it’s not just road and highway workers whose lives are being affected by these accidents. In 2021, the majority of fatalities in work zone crashes were motorists and their passengers, with 778 driver and passenger deaths recorded. These statistics further underscore the importance for drivers to slow down and maintain focus while approaching and passing through work zones.

Driver Best Practices for Work Zone Safety

For nearly 25 years, National Work Zone Awareness Week has been highlighting important safety and traffic issues surrounding work zones. Every spring it reminds us that there are still many issues to solve within these areas and we all have a role to play in keeping our highways, roads and work zones safe. To help guide you, here are some tips:

  • Plan your routes: There are plenty of resources available to check for active work zones. Whenever possible, try to avoid travelling through them; otherwise, provide yourself additional time in case there are delays.
  • Stay alert: Work zones can cause unexpected slowdowns, so it’s important to be prepared at a moment’s notice. In 2021, 24 percent of all fatal work zone crashes involved rear-end collisions. Keep your eyes on the road! If you’re feeling tired, pull over somewhere safe.
  • Give large vehicles enough space: Fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks and buses increased significantly in 2021 (from 210 fatal crashes in 2020 to 291 in 2021). To put it in perspective, this 39 percent increase is in complete contrast to the 2 percent increase in fatal work zone crashes not involving a large truck or bus. Always give large vehicles plenty of space. Also, be on the lookout for large construction vehicles that may be entering and exiting work areas at slower speeds.
  • Be mindful of pedestrians and cyclists: Work zones often restrict where non-motorized road users can travel. In 2021, 173 people on foot and bicycles lost their lives in work zone crashes.
  • Be on the lookout for workers: There isn’t always an abundance of space between the work zone and travel lanes. Be considerate and slow down when you see workers.
  • Reduce your speed: Speed was found to be a contributing factor in 32 percent of fatal work zone crashes in 2021. Transportation agencies often reduce speed limits in work zones to make it safer for all parties to navigate.
  • Move into the open lane: As soon as you spot that first black and orange sign signalling a work zone ahead, you should move into the open lane. Make sure to check your blind spots when switching lanes.
  • Put your phone down: You can’t focus on what’s happening in front of you when you’re on your phone, even if it’s only for a second. Workers are focused on doing their job to repair roads- do yours.
  • Be patient and stay calm: Remember, work zones and the crews working diligently behind the scenes aren’t there to inconvenience you. They’re working to improve the roads and make your future driving experience better.

Front-Line Best Practices for Work Zone Safety

Those on the front lines also have a role to play in ensuring safety. Whether you’re a site supervisor or a road worker, if you’re within the cone zone you have a responsibility to uphold safety. Here are some best practices those on the front lines can take to mitigate safety hazards and stay safe from serious and fatal injuries.

Prioritize Work Zone Safety Training

The construction field is always changing, with safety standards not far behind. It’s important to provide your crew with the latest training to ensure they stay safe on the job. Investing in the newest training guarantees you’re using the best practices, keeping everyone safe and projects running smoothly. In addition to prioritizing ongoing safety training, holding regular morning safety meetings can further reduce risks onsite. These meetings permit discussions about safety concerns related to each day’s work.  

Ensure Proper Work Zone Layout

Making sure work zones are set up properly lowers the risk of accidents. To ensure this, every highway work zone should follow the latest Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) guidelines, which are the national standards for work zone design and set-up. From the beginning of every project, Supervisors should document the work zone layout and assess it daily. They should check for temporary traffic control effectiveness by looking for signs of near misses, such as skid marks or damaged barricades, and make any required changes, making sure to notify workers of any changes as they occur.

Properly Control Traffic With Temporary Traffic Signals from NAT

Our Automated Flagger Assistance Devices and Portable Traffic Signals can provide a safe environment for workers, pedestrians and other road users. Our RCF 2.4 Automated Flagger Assistance Device (AFAD) controls traffic while keeping workers out of harm’s way. The first of its kind over 20 years ago, the RCF 2.4 AFAD is still recognized as the safest alternative to construction flaggers for temporary, short-term work zone traffic control. Rather than risk the safety of the Traffic Control Person, the Automated Flagger is operated by a traffic control person via remote control from a safe location. The RCF2.4 allows for traffic to flow smoothly while ensuring there are fewer safety risks for the traffic control person.

Looking for something more long-term and continuous? The PTL2.4x Portable Traffic Signal checks all the boxes. Engineered for safety, this reliable and versatile portable traffic signal is ideal for continuous operation, perfect for your long-term traffic control needs. It’s easy to set up, user-friendly, and incredibly durable– making it an excellent choice for your next construction project.

How You Can Celebrate National Work Zone Awareness Week

Kicking off on April 15th and running until the 19th, there are plenty of ways you can get involved in this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week. Here’s a breakdown of the weeklong festivities:

  • April 15th: Work Zone Safety Training Day: Companies are encouraged to partake in safety demos and discuss safety rules. There’s also a national standdown where employers and workers stop to learn about staying safe at work.
  • April 16th: National Kickoff Event: Hosted by the Maryland Department of Transportation. More details to be released as the event nears.
  • April 17th: Go Orange Day: Wear orange in support of work zone safety and pay respect to all those who’ve lost their lives at work zones and their families.
  • April 18th: Social Media Storm: Spread the message on social message using the hashtags #WorkZoneSafety and #NWZAW between 9 am and 4 pm ET.
  •  April 19th: Moment of Silence: Started in 2022, the weeklong campaign ends with a moment of silence to remember the men and women whose lives were lost in a work zone accident.

To learn more about how you can participate in this year’s events, visit the National Work Zone Awareness Week website.

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