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Injured on the job? Alliance urges employers to address hazards

A construction zone accident in which a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation employee was struck by a dump truck was reported in our previous blog post ("Dump truck driver causes work injury in construction zone," on Aug. 19). Since the accident, the Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners Alliance urged employers to be proactive in protecting workers in construction zones. The alliance is a conglomerate of labor unions, contractor associations and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It was noted that almost 50 percent of construction zone fatalities and workers injured on the job are caused by safety violations on the work site.

The deputy director of OSHA's Directorate of Construction says most workplace deaths and injuries are preventable, underscoring the importance of employers doing hazard analysis and addressing issues that could lead to mishaps. He pointed out two common causes for construction zone accidents. The first involves the need for construction workers to cross busy highways to get to the construction site from a parking area. It is not uncommon for crew members to park on the median, and it is suggested that an off-site area be established; construction vehicles could then transport workers and their equipment to the site.

The second known hazard is the back-up alarms of construction vehicles. Reportedly, in almost a third of the fatal accidents involving vehicles backing up between 2003 and 2010, the back-up alarms of the vehicles were faulty. Because the sounds of many back-up alarms on a worksite can become a constant drone of noise, it has been suggested that different sounds are used for different directions, along with back-up cameras to prevent these fatalities.

A large number of construction zone workers are injured on the job, or killed, as the result of collisions involving passing traffic. Construction company owners must ensure the required traffic control devices are placed according to standard regulations to warn drivers of the dangers. These include flashing lights, traffic signals, orange barrels and cones. Construction zone workers in Pennsylvania are exposed to dangerous conditions in their workplace environments that are hot, noisy, dirty and dusty, and have the right to be protected against workplace hazards. Those who suffer construction zone injuries may pursue financial relief by filing benefit claims with the workers' compensation fund to cover medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: constructiondive.com, "Unsafe summer: Highway crew deaths leave industry searching for solutions", Sharon O'Malley, Aug. 13, 2015

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