In Minnesota and across the country, roadway construction workers face many dangers daily. One of the biggest challenges is keeping safe while working. In fact, since 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been recording road construction-related fatalities and found from 2003 to 2018, there was an average of about 125 deaths, which steadily increased within each of the years from 2014 to 2016.

A great deal of roadway construction-related fatalities occurred when a piece of equipment or a vehicle drove into the work zone, called an intrusion, and hit a worker. According to a report by The Center for Construction Training and Research, from 2011 to 2016, 267 roadway construction workers died from intrusions. Of these deaths, forward-moving vehicles caused about 60 percent, while backward-moving vehicles were responsible for nearly 25 percent. Some of the accidents were caused by distracted drivers, an increase in drivers on the roadways, more road construction projects and speeding.

To help lower these numbers, the Michigan Department of Transportation, in partnership with Michigan’s heavy construction industry, launched the Michigan Work Zone Safety Task Force in 2018. The goal of the task force is to assist safety implementations and recommend the improvement of occupational safety. It consists of 90 members or more and is focused on initiatives including technological innovations, education and law enforcement.

Other traffic safety officials recommend placing traffic control equipment at road construction sites, such as concrete, mobile or steel barriers, employing road construction engineers to help improve work zones and implementing more construction site inspections. Using automated flagger devices and electronic signage warning systems, and providing high-visibility clothing for workers are further ways to keep roadway construction workers safe.

When a road construction worker who was injured on the job recovers, he or she might need time off from work to heal, resulting in lost wages and medical debts. However, workers’ compensation benefits could be available to help with these expenses.