National Work Zone Safety Week 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic closing businesses, schools, and government agencies, hundreds of thousands of workers across the region are out of work or working from home. That’s not the case for LIUNA’s construction members. With warmer weather, workers are busy in highway work zones.
Highway construction is some of the most dangerous work there is, and LIUNA members receive the best safety training in the industry. But the best training can’t always prepare a worker for the unexpected distracted driver or someone speeding through a work zone. Work zone accidents most often end in injury or death.
Unfortunately, many highway construction workers know or are related to someone who has suffered from work zone mishap.
“I was 16 years old when my brother was run over while flagging,” said Southern & Central Illinois Laborers’ District Council Business Manager Clint Taylor. “They came in at 45 mph and flipped him over the car. That hits you hard when you’re a young teenager and here’s your old brother who you look up to laying in the hospital with a new baby at home … Thank God he lived.”
To help promote safe driving habits in work zones, State Departments of Transportation, State Police Agencies, contractor associations, and trade unions, including LIUNA, work together to commemorate National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) every April, the traditional start of the highway construction season.
“National Work Zone Awareness Week is the most important week of the year for us,” said Indiana Laborers’ District Council Business Manager David Frye. “It’s our chance to speak directly to the driving public about protecting the lives of our members.”
The theme of this year’s commemoration is Safe Work Zones for All: Protect workers. Protect road users,” a reminder that not only are workers at risk, motorists make up a large percentage of injuries and deaths in work zone accidents.
“We want to remind them to be cautious and drive safe, not only for workers but for their own safety as well,” said Great Plains Laborers’ District Council Business Manager Tony Penn.
In past years, NWZAW has been a chance for the coalition to capture the public’s attention through press conferences, highway rest area outreach, and social media interaction. This year, with stay at home orders due to the nationwide pandemic, many of those options are out of play.
But despite limitations affecting the outreach, the message remains as strong and clear as ever.
“Work zone safety is really awareness for the general public as well as awareness for the construction worker,” said LIUNA Vice President and Midwest Regional Manager John Penn. “It’s very important that we make sure everyone understands that we have human lives out there that are making roads safe for travel and that we all want to go home in the evening.”