When the weather gets warm, road construction work speeds up. While this is a busy work season for road construction workers, it is also an incredibly dangerous time for them because of the nature of their work. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 119 workers were killed in road construction accidents in 2014 and 20,000 workers are injured in workplace accidents annually. With more people on our roads in the summer months due to lower gas prices and an improvement in the economy, the hazards these workers face are even greater.
What Are the Main Causes of Road Construction Workers’ Injuries and Fatalities?
Road construction workers are exposed to extreme weather conditions and work long hours—including at night when they are much less visible to drivers. In addition, road construction projects are often on highways where motorists are driving at faster speeds even in road work zones. Common causes of workers’ injuries and deaths include:
- Runovers and backovers. According to the FHWA, almost half of all worker deaths are caused by being run over or backed over by another vehicle or other heavy equipment. Many of these tragic accidents involve dump trucks. These trucks and other heavy equipment have difficulty maneuvering in tight construction spots. When spotters or other safety precautions are not used, the drivers may be unable to see pedestrian workers behind the trucks or equipment, with tragic consequences for the workers who are hit.
- Traffic accidents. Another leading cause of worker accidents involves traffic accidents. When impatient motorists fail to slow down, tailgate other drivers, or engage in distracted driving practices, they can easily hit a nearby construction worker, causing him to suffer catastrophic injuries or death.
- Caught between or struck by objects. Being caught between equipment or being hit by objects can be fatal if the accident involves heavy machinery or construction materials used when repairing or building our roadways.
- Slips and falls. Workers can suffer a slip and fall accident when work sites become slippery due to weather conditions or become hazardous due to construction tools and materials at the work site. Even more dangerous, workers can fall from heavy machinery or bridges and suffer long-term injuries like traumatic brain injury, back and neck injuries, partial or complete paralysis, or internal organ damage.
- Electrical accidents. People who work near overhead power lines or other sources of electricity can suffer life-threatening injuries in an accident.
- Toxic substances and environment. Workers are exposed to harmful substances that can cause them to develop occupational illnesses from long-term exposure. In addition, they can be in dangerous weather conditions where they risk suffering injuries or death, such as if they are hit by lightning.
- Overexertion. Workers can suffer heat-related injuries and overexertion from the heavy physical labor and long hours working outside. If left untreated, these conditions can escalate into a medical emergency.
Tips for Avoiding a Work Construction Site Accident
Given the dangers of road construction work, you must take steps to protect yourself if you work in this profession. Here are safety tips that you should follow:
- Always wear highly visible apparel, such as reflective or florescent clothing, armbands, hats, and vests when working.
- Be aware of the hazards on the work site and the blind spots for any vehicles and heavy machinery that you will be working near.
- Understand where the channel lanes are where walking is prohibited and avoid these areas as a pedestrian.
- Use a spotter when equipment is being loaded and unloaded.
- Before starting your work shift, be certain that you know the hand signals to be used between equipment operators and pedestrian workers.
- Be aware of the swinging distance of any equipment using buckets and stay out of the danger zones if at all possible.
- Avoid standing under buckets or other heavy equipment.
- Wear a seat belt whenever operating a vehicle. Parking brakes should be utilized for all vehicles and heavy equipment.
- If you are a flagger, maintain a distance between other workers and yourself to distinguish your role to motorists. Also, have good sight communication or a two-way radio to communicate with other flaggers at the end of the traffic zone.
How Workers’ Compensation Benefits Can Help
If you are a road construction worker and suffered a workplace accident, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay your medical bills and replace your wages while you are off work recovering. You could also receive partial or permanent disability payments if your injury caused you to suffer a disability. Death benefits are available if a family member died as a result of an accident at a road construction site.
Do you need to file a workers’ compensation claim? Let Manfred Ricciardelli guide you through the process and help you fight to obtain the benefits you deserve. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.