Work Zone Safety
Is Everyone's Business
By Claudia Knezek
Director, New Jersey Local
Technical Assistance Program
Most roadwork occurs in New Jersey while motorists are present. There is a growing national concern regarding work zones as a result of 1,065 fatalities and over 40,000 injuries that occurred in 2004. During this period, there were nearly 7,000 crashes in New Jersey when road construction or workers were present. More than 1,700 of these work zone crashes resulted in injuries. A majority of the crashes are rear-end or same direction side-swipe collisions, which can be attributed to following too closely behind the car in front, improper lane changes, or poor lane merges.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has recognized that everyone is ultimately responsible for work zone safety. Engineers make sure that work zones are designed and functioning properly, while drivers and pedestrians must obey traffic laws and remain alert. Police enforce laws within work zones and public safety agencies serve as responders when crashes occur. Municipal governments allocate funding for safe roads and promote public awareness that helps to make the work zones safer.
The federal government has instituted a multi-faceted approach for reduction of work zone fatalities through engineering, education, enforcement and coordination with public safety agencies. Engineering is used to standardize both work areas and work zone safety devices. Education primarily promotes public awareness and education of roadway workers, engineers, and enforcement personnel. Enforcement is another component to ensure public safety in vulnerable work zones. Lastly, partnerships improve safety because they raise public consciousness about the need to drive safely in work zones.
Best Practices in New Jersey
During the mid 1990’s, the New Jersey Work Zone Safety Partnership was formed representing public and private sector members from engineering, enforcement and education to support the New Jersey State Police Construction Unit in reducing work zone fatalities. This group of full-time state troopers specializes in work zone safety enforcement on New Jersey highways. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) representatives trained these troopers in worker safety compliance and work zone inspection. Additionally, the NJDOT has required a Traffic Control Coordinator be designated on each of their jobs. As a result of this collaborative effort, the number of work zone fatalities has continually decreased to one of the lowest national rates, which is an accomplishment for the most congested state.
The Partnership has also teamed with Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, and the New Jersey Police Traffic Officers’ Association (NJPTOA) to address work zone safety on local roadways. They sponsor the New Jersey Police Work Zone Safety Train-the-Trainer Program for municipal police officers.
This four-day program consists of sessions covering the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), traffic control planning on state and local projects, OSHA considerations, legal issues and the role of the police officer in work zones. Graduates of the program are then expected to train their departments and public works employees in work zone safety procedures for local roadways. Every two years these trainers attend a refresher program that updates them on changes in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the federal requirement for work zone safety applications. For additional information on the program, contact Larry Cullari at 732-445-3632, ext. 148.
Additionally, police officers and public works employees are kept informed of best practices in work zone safety when attending the Annual Work Zone Safety Conference, an event that is scheduled during National Work Zone Safety Week. The Partnership sponsors this program that attracts over 300 participants from enforcement, engineering, and the transportation industry who unite and renew their interest in saving lives through the promotion of work zone safety. Unless reminded, workers and motorists become complacent about the safety that can save their own lives!
Unexpected Changes Ahead for New Jersey Municipalities
Road Workers and police officers team together to help create safer work zones in New Jersey
Traffic congestion continues to increase in New Jersey and throughout the country, along with the need to perform rehabilitation and reconstruction work on aging roads; therefore, maintaining work zone safety and mobility has become an increasingly complex challenge. To help address this challenge, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published an updated Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule in the Federal Register in September 2004. The rule applies to all state and local governments that receive Federal-aid highway funding. Transportation agencies are required to comply with provisions of the rule by October 12, 2007. A new guidance document is available from FHWA, Implementing the Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility, and offers assistance in understanding and following the rule’s updated provisions.
The rule’s main goal is to reduce crashes and congestion in and around work zones. Provisions encourage expanding work zone planning beyond the project work zone itself to address corridor, network and regional issues. The updated rule also advocates for expanding work zone management beyond the basics of traffic safety and control to address the need for continued mobility.
Additional information relating to the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule can be found at http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/resources/final_rule.htm.
Representatives from the FHWA—NJ Division and the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) are currently planning for the implementation of the rule and information will be made available to municipalities on the Rutgers CAIT Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) website www.ltap.rutgers.edu. The final outcome is expected to be better work zone set-ups, safer roadways, increased mobility for all users, and fewer roadway fatalities in New Jersey and throughout the nation.
Article published in December 2006, New Jersey Municipalities