If we’re honest, most of us will admit to feeling the mild irritation of coming upon a construction work zone in our daily travels as we navigate rush hour traffic to get to work, do errands or shuttle kids around in a car pool. After all, it can feel like we spend hours in the car on any given day…and we need to get where we’re going, in good time. But as our country’s infrastructure is rehabilitated, road work crews seem to be a more constant presence on our roads, bridges, and highways. And it’s a dangerous business. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, well over 100 workers are killed and over 20,000 are injured in the highway construction industry each year. There’s good reason for the doubling of fines for traffic violation offenders within proximity to these zones. Incredibly, on a consistent basis, only about half of the deaths are the result of outside motorists passing through the work zone; the rest are the result of heavy equipment or vehicular traffic accidents within the confines of the zone itself. Half of these “intra-zone” tragedies involve heavy vehicles with limited visibility (often dump trucks) backing or rolling over colleagues.
So where do road construction industry employers and watchdogs turn for the rules of the road? The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, or MUTCD, defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways and private roads open to public travel. The MUTCD is published, administered and periodically updated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and was adopted and incorporated into OSHA’s standards. It contains an exhaustive compilation of national standards for road markings, highway signs and traffic signals, and addresses topics such as training, personal protective equipment, speed reduction barriers and lighting, to name a few of the more basic components.
Employers can never be too careful about following prescribed safety guidelines for their crews on the streets. Dogmatically following the MUTCD protocols, as well as any site-specific cautionary guidelines or training, are the full responsibility of employers, and nowhere is that more evident than in the eyes of a jury at trial.
If you are or become involved in a roadway construction liability case, CED has qualified engineers with vast experience in the field. Call us at 1-800-780-4221 or submit an assignment on line HERE.