Pennsylvania's highway construction industry began partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for a safety stand-down on Sept. 15.
The event, dubbed "Safer Together," asked for both the transportation construction industry and the motoring public to focus on work zone safety to prevent jobsite accidents.
The American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania (ACEC/PA) is the third agency behind the campaign.
"In recent months, there has been an increase in work zone incidents in Pennsylvania," Leeann Sherman, executive director of ACEC/PA, told PennWatch. "Our hope is that this collaboration between ACEC/PA, PennDOT, the PA Turnpike and other highway industry partners will bring attention to this issue and prevent future jobsite injuries and fatalities. If this safety stand-down can help prevent even one injury or fatality, it will have been well worth it."
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), nearly 50,000 people are injured or killed at transportation jobsites around the country each year. Some involve improper crew positioning around construction equipment or a lack of communication or awareness; other accidents involve the drivers traveling at unsafe speeds. Nearly all are avoidable.
Robert Latham, the executive vice president of Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC), commented to WJET-TV/WXFP-TV in Erie, that "as construction workers go through the routine motions of working with heavy equipment, accidents can occur if they become complacent even for a moment. We're urging workers to maintain their focus on safety as we near the completion of this year's construction season."
Building crews at transportation sites were asked to dedicate 30 minutes of their day Sept. 15 to focus on work zone safety through various activities such as safety talks, traffic control plan reviews or using one of the many resources provided on the event webpage. Workers were also encouraged to take a web-based training course on Temporary Traffic Control Safety offered by PennDOT.
In addition, Pennsylvania drivers were reminded again to slow down in work zones, observe the posted speed limits, and put down their phones while driving. In 2020 alone, 15 people were killed in crashes in work zones across the state, according to PennDOT data.
"Safety is PennDOT's most important priority, not just for our highway workers, but also for the motoring public," said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. "When we all work together, we are all safer."
PennDOT and the PA Turnpike Commission launched the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWZSE) program in 2020 to reduce driving speeds and change driver behavior in work zones.
"During the height of the pandemic, with fewer drivers on the roadway, many who were driving were doing so at excessive rates of speed and using their cellphones more frequently and for longer periods of time," explained Mark Compton, CEO of the PA Turnpike. "Many more drivers are now returning to the roadway, but unfortunately, the trend of unsafe driving behaviors is on the upswing as well. More motorists speeding and driving distractedly can have serious consequences for our roadway teams who can be working inches away from live traffic."
For more information on Safer Together, visit www.acecpa.org/page/SafetyStandDown
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