U.S. roadside workers are exposed to hazardous workplace conditions that put them at high risk of serious injury and death. Each year, thousands of roadside workers are injured or killed while performing their jobs.
Working Beside the Roadway is a High-Risk Job
In the U.S., over 20,000 roadside workers suffer on-the-job injuries or fatalities while at work every year. In 2011, 590 roadside workers died. In 2014, the fatality rate rose to 669, accounting for approximately two deaths every day. The leading cause of roadside-related injuries and fatalities is vehicles and objects striking workers. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 80 fatalities caused by motor vehicles hitting workers while working beside the roadway. Crushing accidents, specifically being physically pinned down by a vehicle, are the third leading cause of fatalities followed by vehicle collisions where vehicles run over or back into workers at high speeds.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 19 percent of roadside worker fatalities occur on busy urban freeways, while 25 percent occur on rural roadways. Workers who work at night or in bad weather conditions like rain, sleet and snow are especially vulnerable to serious injuries and fatalities due to high vehicle speeds and poor driver visibility. Lawyers in Chicago often see roadside workers who suffer serious workplace injuries while working on Chicago freeways at night or in inclement weather.
Public utility workers, highway workers, and construction workers are especially vulnerable to on-the-job injuries and fatalities. A Crystal Lakes public works employee recently suffered fatal injuries when crushed between a construction trailer and an SUV. In 2015, over 40 percent of roadside workers reported that their work zones had been hit by a motor vehicle at least once during the year.
Workplace Safety Zones
To prevent injuries and fatalities, the Federal Highway Administration promotes workplace safety zones for all types of roadway occupations. In workplace safety zones, traffic may be controlled by a person holding a sign or flag that indicates speed, as well as barriers like cones or barrels that direct traffic and keep vehicles out of work zones. The National Highway Work Zone Safety Program recommends workplace safe zones for all roadway workers and provides safety tips to help drivers avoid accidents. The program recently launched an outreach campaign with national radio ads that urge motorists to obey speed limits and use caution while driving through roadway work zones, especially at night.