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Zone Out Injuries: Strategies to Ensure Safer Work Zones

13 March, 2024

A road construction zone with glare from the sun, vehicles are driving next to a row of cones while a worker walks alongside them

Work zones are essential to maintaining and upgrading our roadways. Unfortunately, these zones can create havoc for travel commutes and create safety hazards that often result in crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Every spring National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) kicks off at the start of the construction season to encourage safe driving through highway work zones. Organizations across the nation have advocated for roadway safety, such as the American Traffic Safety Services Foundation (ATSS Foundation), which has been a strong advocate for over 50 years and promotes public awareness programs.  

Programs like the National Work Zone Memorial honor lives lost in work zones to help bring awareness to the real possibilities of deaths related to work zones, those who create policies, as well as drivers. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, one work zone fatality occurs for every 4 billion vehicle miles of travel and every $112 million worth of roadway construction expenditures. In 2021, work zones reached a 17-year high.  

  1. 105,000 crashes
  2. 42,000 injuries
  3. 954 fatalities 

The National Safety Council has recorded a 63% increase in deaths while in a work zone since 2010, with motor vehicles taking the top slot. Data suggests that many factors lead to injuries or deaths in work zones. Currently, a significant reason for the uptick in incidents is often due to drivers who are distracted, such as texting or looking up directions, but other incidents of distracted driving occur as well, such as:  

  • Speeding 
  • Following too closely 
  • Changes in lane patterns  

Distracting tasks can affect drivers in different ways, as categorized into three types below: 

  1. A driver is distracted in a work zoneCognitive distraction: Any task that takes your mind off the road. Examples of this include:
    • Talking on the phone
    • Arguing with a passenger
    • Driving while impaired
  2. Visual distraction: Tasks that require the driver to look away from the roadway to visually obtain information, such as:
    • Reading a text message
    • Looking up directions
  3. Manual distraction: Tasks that require the driver to take a hand off the steering wheel include:
    • Reaching for things inside the vehicle
    • Eating or drinking
    • Using a handheld device

How Do We Prevent Distracted Driving?  

48 U.S. states have banned texting while driving, and a growing number of states have also banned the use of handheld devices. However, being on the phone while driving is not the only cause of work zone incidents. Here are some tips for how to decrease distracted driving: 

  • Plan for delays to allocate extra travel time  
  • Use alternate routes to avoid work zones 
  • Be aware of changes in traffic patterns 
  • Avoid visual distractions  
  • Follow the directions of road crew flaggers 
  • Slowdown in construction zones and move over for roadside crews 

Every business that relies on drivers should emphasize the safety of each driver they employ. Commitment from the top helps ensure that employees drive safely, and their vehicles are properly maintained.  

Employers can show their commitment to their employees by implementing a motor vehicle safety program. Through the implementation of this program, it will help decrease work zone incidents. OSHA crafted some guidelines for an effective safety program that employers can utilize to train their drivers on proper road safety. Here are some tips on what to include in your vehicle safety plan:  

  • Develop a written vehicle safety policy—Inform employees what is expected of them while utilizing company vehicles. Employees should also inform their employers that they have read and understood vehicle safety policies and procedures.
  • Check workers’ driving records—Ensuring that those utilizing company vehicles are qualified is crucial to maintaining road safety. Check employee driving records before they can get behind the wheel and annually after. Those with a poor driving record should be screened and denied access to company vehicles. 
  • Keep vehicles up to date on maintenance— Develop and implement procedures that ensure vehicle safety inspections and maintenance are done on regular schedules. Have employees immediately report mechanical problems to their supervisors.
  • Invest in education and training— Ensure all employees understand the vehicle safety policy and highway safety rules that apply to your area when hired. 
  • Know the rules— Each state has its own list of requirements for vehicle registration, driver licenses, and general rules of the road. Find out what the rules are in your state and general industry. 

How Can Company Policies Reduce Distracted Driving?  

There will always be incidents where a driver may become distracted behind the wheel. Unfortunately, there is no way to remove all the things that can distract a person while behind the wheel, nor is this a realistic goal to obtain. 

Heavy machinery is driving through a work zone with construction workers in the foregroundA good step forward is crafting some policies within your company that could alleviate some of these distractions. First things first, create a strategy for your policy for when these rules or guidelines are created, and ensure that there will be people to enforce them. A good place to start is by developing a checklist. Consider including the following elements in the following checklist:  

  • Who will be involved in the development?  
  • What administrative actions will support the policy? 
  • What consequences will be implemented for policy violations? 
  • Will emergency use be allowed? 
  • How will this be monitored?  
  • Which vehicles will be covered? 

Successful policy implementation demonstrates commitment to the safety of your workforce, helps prevent distraction-related crashes, and can help manage your organization’s liability in the event of a crash. 

DuraLabel’s Resources  

Distracted driving plays a role in the amount of work zone incidents that occur each year. Educating workers has become more crucial than ever to reducing distracted driving. A lot goes into creating training plans and policies to keep workers safe, too. Successful policy implementation demonstrates commitment to the safety of your workforce, helps prevent distraction-related crashes, and can help manage your organization’s liability in the event of a crash. 

Visual communication plays a key role in keeping people safe in and out of the facility. Posting clear safety signage will help reinforce training. DuraLabel’s free OSHA Safety Signs Instant Action Guide will help create OSHA/ANSI-compliant safety signs, and provide information about how to assess your facility’s needs.  

Want to learn more about floor marking? DuraLabel’s free Floor Marking Instant Action guide can help create safe pathways for pedestrians and vehicular traffic, reduce confusion, improve efficiency, and guide workers to the tools they need. Download a free copy of the Floor Marking Instant Action Guide today. 

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OSHA Safety Sign Guide
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