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Work zone safety a top priority

With stronger legislation and better training, work zones can become safer for both construction workers and drivers.

With stronger legislation and better training, work zones can become safer for both construction workers and drivers.

There are many accidents that can happen on a construction site, from minor injuries to mortal wounds. When not on a secluded job, workers aren't the only ones who are a danger. During road repairs, employees also face the threat of motorists.

From 2003 to 2010, 962 workers suffered fatal injuries, according to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report. With stronger laws and better training, road work areas can become less dangerous for all involved.

Legislation in development
As part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, the Work Zone Safety Grant strives to protect both drivers and employees from fatal accidents. Since its inception, the plan has decreased casualties by approximately 50 percent and provided better training for construction workers, according to a letter from the American Traffic Safety Services Association. Since 2012, MAP-21 has continued the Highway Safety Improvement Program to make the roads more secure for everyone.

Further legislation has been proposed from South Carolina Senator Larry Grooms after highway worker Paul Lewis Fee died after a hit-and-run, WLTX reported. Peanut's Law, named after Kenneth "Peanut" Long, Jr., who was also killed in a work zone, would institute harsher penalties for motorists driving recklessly in work zones.

"It's very dangerous being on the side of the highway when you're performing work for a public good, for a public purpose, and they should be commended for their work, and it shouldn't be a life threatening situation that they're in," Grooms explained to the source.

Safety first
Approximately 46 percent of work zone fatalities were from being struck by a vehicle or construction equipment, according to the NIOSH report. It's important for workers to keep their eyes open and be aware of their surroundings, whether they're driving the machines or manning the ground.

When on site, employees should be wearing safety equipment, such as reflective vests and hard hats, and should remain in contact with their fellow workers. They should pay attention to what's happening around them and check that all equipment is in top shape before using, explained the source.

For further protection, construction workers can also use tools, such as weighted barriers and automated flagger assistant devices, which keep actual people away from vehicular danger in work zones, according to an Equipment World article.

Construction safety remains a priority for both workers and government agencies. With proper precautions and by passing legislation, that hope can become a reality, and the number of deaths and injuries due to work zone accidents will decrease significantly.