Transportation Construction Project Workers Are Pedestrians and Need Protection Too, ARTBA Reminds Federal Safety Summit

Thu July 16, 2020 - National Edition

Transportation construction workers face on-the-job risks that federal officials should address as they focus on the rising tide of pedestrian fatalities on the nation's roadways, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) July 15 told participants at the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Summit on Pedestrian Safety.

"When policymakers seek to mitigate risks to pedestrians, workers are rarely considered," said Brad Sant, ARTBA's senior vice president of safety and education.

"Currently, U.S. DOT classifies workers laboring on the side of a roadway as ‘pedestrians.' As we work together to stem the rise in pedestrian deaths and injuries, we must include roadway workers in those deliberations."

Sant said the oversight stems from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which classifies a roadway vehicle-related crash death of a person outside a vehicle as a "pedestrian" regardless of the activity or work in which the person was engaged.

Sant said independent reviews of worker death data from the U.S. Department of Labor's (U.S. DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates as many as 200 workers completing tasks on America's roadways are killed each year.

"As a beginning point, the U.S. transportation and labor departments should work together to align their data sets to better understand the risk to these workers," said Sant.

In 2018, the most current year available, NHTSA data reveals pedestrians accounted for 17 percent of all road deaths, up from 12 percent in 2009, and reportedly reaching the highest number in thirty years. But because U.S. DOT/NHTSA do not track worker deaths separately, there is little data to support industry requests to increase protections. Congressional mandates calling on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create new, more protective "positive protection" regulations for workers have not been implemented, ARTBA said.

Sant said the roadway construction industry has long been concerned about the number of worker deaths caused by motor vehicles and has repeatedly called for an increase in the use of positive protective means to separate workers from traffic. At the summit, he made the following recommendations:

  • Create a formal, annual alignment between the FARS database and the BLS data so U.S. DOT better understands the number of "pedestrian workers" killed each year from motor vehicle crashes.
  • Continue working with state and local enforcement agencies to classify the activity of the pedestrian victim so U.S. DOT has a clearer understanding of pedestrian activity and can create focused mitigation strategies that will effectively protect this vulnerable group.

"I believe once the agency sees the numbers of worker deaths, it will be more likely to respond to industry requests for better positive protective measures. To truly reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries, we must better understand the nature of the risks and the activity of the pedestrians when they are struck," Sant concluded.

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