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Region V Helps to Reduce Fatalities by Emphasizing Roadway Work Zone Safety

During 1999, a review of fatalities in OSHA's Region V showed that there had been over 50 fatalities to construction workers in roadway work zones in the previous five years. Due to passage of the Transportation Equity Act in 1998, which would provide millions of dollars for roadway improvements, the number of roadway construction sites was expected to increase significantly. Starting in 2000, OSHA's Region V took steps to help prevent fatalities at these sites.

The first of these steps was to initiate a Local Emphasis Program (LEP) in the states of Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. This involved new training for all compliance officers covering inspections in roadway work zones, as well as increased inspection activity. Since the LEP was signed, approximately 300 inspections have been conducted each year on employers engaged in construction activities in roadways.

Contractors and the road building associations took note of the increase in inspection activity. In Illinois, OSHA was asked to sit on the safety committee of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA). OSHA attends their meetings, conducts speeches for their members several times each year, and provides information on the most common hazards identified during inspections.

Region V staff have also been a part of an ongoing informal partnership with the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) to address fatalities related to highway cone-setting. A recommended best practice, approved by OSHA's Directorate of Construction, on the most suitable safety improvements to cone-setting trucks was presented to the ATSSA at their mid-year conference.

In addition to their work with the IRTBA and the ATSSA, OSHA Region V staff have made presentations at many other major association and industry conferences, including CONEXPO-CON/AGG, the International Conference on Roadway Work Zone Safety, the American Road and Transportation Builders Mid Year Conference, and the Construction Safety Conference and Exposition.

These efforts in inspection and compliance assistance led to an increased awareness of proper roadway work zone safety. From 2000 to 2002, the three targeted states went from over 10 fatalities per year to 2 fatalities. Illinois, which had the highest number of fatalities prior to this effort, had zero fatalities in 2002.

In late 2003 and early 2004, a number of workers were killed in roadway work zones, not as a result of poor work zone design, but instead as a result of drunk drivers crashing into the work zones. OSHA staff in Region V are currently participating on a task force formed by the Governor of Illinois to address this issue.

"Compliance officers in the field have noticed a vast improvement since the implementation of these programs. Employers, both big and small, are making improvements in signage and work zone delineation," said John Maronic of OSHA's Region V.

For more information on the OSHA's Region V roadway work zone programs, contact John Maronic.

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