"Putting work zone safety first" was the message of the day at the National Work Zone Awareness Week press conference hosted by the North Tarrant Express (NTE) project team and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on April 5. The event was attended by more than 300 workers, project team members, and executives, and covered by local television, radio and print media. The goal was to highlight not only the importance of work zone safety, but also honor the memory of those workers who have lost their lives in work zones around the country. Every year, highway construction teams and their project partners highlight the importance of work zone safety. This year's national theme was "Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands," underscoring the role that workers – and drivers – play in reducing accidents, injuries and fatalities. Last week's event along the I-35W construction corridor began with a quarterly safety training by North Tarrant Infrastructure, the project contractor. NTI has conducted nearly 8,000 safety briefings for over 1,200 construction zone workers who to-date have worked five million man hours. Kyle Freeman, safety director for the I-35W project, spoke not only about the ways that workers can protect themselves while working in an active construction zone, but also sent a message to the driving public. "More often than not, we see drivers making sudden directional changes because they didn't see a traffic shift, new exit or lane closure. These can have dire consequences for both drivers and our workers, so we need the driving public to stay safe and alert in work zones."
TxDOT project manager, Scott Hall, shared some eye-opening statistics related to work zones. "At any given time, as many as 2,500 construction and maintenance work zones can be active on the more than 80,000 lane miles that TxDOT maintains. Last year, almost 26,000 crashes occurred in Texas work zones, resulting in 747 serious injuries and 181 fatalities. Ninety-six percent of those fatalities were motorists, pedestrians or bicyclists, not roadside workers."Hall, and NTE corporate affairs director Robert Hinkle, both shared six basic tips for the driving public to help keep them – and the I-35W workers – safe:
- Slow down.
- Don't tailgate.
- Stay alert and minimize distractions such as mobile phones.
- Obey road crew flaggers.
- Expect the unexpected.
- Plan ahead.