Wednesday, April 10, 2019

TEEX Proudly Goes Orange – Drive Like You Work Here

Do not be surprised to see coworkers, TEEX staff and people everywhere in orange on Wednesday, April 10. Whether you are at work or play, this is the day to rock your orange V-neck, tank top, skirt, socks or pants. If orange is just not your thing, it is okay to wear an orange ribbon. Why orange? Well, orange is to raise awareness for the 19th Annual National Work Zone Safety Week, which begins on April 8 and concludes on April 12, 2019. 

You might be wondering: Does it really help? I say it does. Awareness has helped every issue we have in the United States of America. We have to have the conversations and make people aware. Any program that is geared toward helping starts with admitting you have a problem. 


You do have a problem, and so do I. Work zones are dangerous. It’s not just the employees who are at risk; it is everyone who is in the work zone, and this problem does not discriminate at all. It can affect pedestrians, drivers, crew members, foremen or inspectors. There are no second chances and no mulligans in work zone fatalities. There could be many things that have to go wrong in order for an accident to occur, or there could be just one thing that goes wrong. There are hazards everywhere. You could be walking well inside the lane closure and be struck by a vehicle due to distracted driving or speeding. If you are on a closed construction site, many potential hazards can be mitigated. If you are on an open road construction site, then the variables are ever-changing. Vehicles are driving past just a few feet from you, at varying speeds, hopefully at the advised speed or slower. Sometimes, drivers are even bothered by the crew that is working to make the roads in their neighborhood better. 


I will admit that even I have been frustrated when encountering road construction, but this last time it was no one’s fault but my own. I had seen the message board all week and still forgot about the road and lane closure I was headed toward. The ideal situation is to avoid it completely, and that is what I did on my way back. My best suggestion to you is to avoid road construction sites if possible. If you cannot, then plan for extra time. I still made it to my destination safely and on time. 

If you find yourself in road construction work zones, then follow the tips recommended by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association. 


Stay focused. 

Don’t use your phone, and don’t eat while driving. This can lead to distracted driving. We have been conditioned for instant-gratification through texts and immediate information on our cell phones, but it is just not worth it. Options for you include auto-replies, turning your volume down, using the ‘do not disturb’ setting or turning your phone off. I know the last one is drastic but your truck is not your phone booth. Again, it is just not worth it. In 2017, there were 710 fatal crashes and 799 fatalities, 216 fatal crashes and 265 fatalities involving trucks; 129 fatal crashes and 126 fatalities involving pedestrians, according to statistics from www.workzonesafety.org. The numbers are staggering. Almost every statistic is higher than the previous 3-year average. For the previous 10 years, work zone fatalities were lower except in 2007. Edward, Keith, William, Jorge, Jeff, Lyndon, Jarrel, George, James, Adam, Nolan, John, Maceo, David, Dave, David, Jonathan and David. These names were added to the 2019 National Work Zone Memorial. The names hit closer to home when I read them. With these 18 names, there were 18 emergency calls, 18 funerals, 18 sons, brothers, dads and husbands that didn’t make it home that night, along with the many more workers, drivers, passengers and pedestrians who were not named. All 18 of these were unnecessary. 


Drive Like You Work Here. 

This is something we can all do. We slow down and avoid talking on cell phones in school zones, and we stop for school buses. It is time we take that concern to work zones, if you have not done so yet. There was a time that no one wore seat belts and kids sat on mother’s laps, but through innovation and awareness and your personal efforts, we have drastically reduced it. I cannot imagine getting in a car and someone refusing to use a seat belt. It takes awareness to start the change. There are so many road projects under way across Texas alone that a person can go through several lane closures from different companies within a few miles. When that happens, it can be easy for some to neglect the orange signs. As an industry, if we want perfection, we have to be perfect in our lane closures and on our projects. Though there are options with traffic control, the correct signs have to be put up and taken down and flaggers and the entire crew have to be on point all day. In order for us to succeed, we have to have the best tapers, buffers and most organized daily plans. When the jobsite commands respect, typically you receive it from the drivers in and around you. If you are leading the industry, keep it up. If you’re in the category of just getting by, take stock on how you can improve. There is always room for improvement for either situation. It takes training, investigating, improving and discussing the improvements. This could be in your daily post-mortems or straight from the hip, depending on what the situation calls for. We are the industry professionals and are responsible for improving our industry. 

I look forward to spreading the word, proudly wearing orange on Wednesday, and seeing how many people we can reach. Let’s all start with promoting “Drive Like You Work Here.” Nick Holub, Instructor 1 with TEEX Infrastructure and Safety Training Institute, Transportation Program.