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HIGHWAY WORK ZONE SAFETY

Preventing Worker Injuries and Deaths from Backing Construction Vehicles and Equipment at Roadway Construction Worksites

Workers on roadway construction worksites are exposed to possible injury and death from moving construction vehicles and equipment. This new NIOSH Workplace Solutions recommends that specific procedures and controls be in place at roadway construction worksites to help prevent backover-related injuries and deaths at roadway construction worksites.

Highway construction workersRoadway work zones are hazardous both for motorists who drive through the complex array of signs, barrels, and lane changes and for workers who build, repair, and maintain our Nation’s streets, bridges, and highways.

Fatalities in construction and maintenance work zones are the focus of this topic page. Fatalities in construction and maintenance work zones averaged 778 from 1994 through 1999, 1060 from 2000 through 2006, and 669 from 2007 through 2012. Fatalities in construction and maintenance work zones reach a peak of 1,095 in 2003, declining to 609 in 2012. Texas, California, and Florida ranked as the three States with the most motor vehicle crash fatalities in construction and maintenance work zones in 2012—each with at least 50 deaths.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 101 worker fatalities at road construction sites in 2008, 116 in 2009, 106 in 2010, 122 in 2011, and 133 in 2012, and 105 in 2013. Over the 11 years from 2003 through 2013, Texas ranked as the State with the most worker deaths in work zones (131), followed in rank order by Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee, Georgia, and Indiana. Transportation incidents accounted for 66 percent of roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries in 2013. In 69 percent of these transportation incidents, a pedestrian worker was stuck by a vehicle. Backing vehicles accounted for 27 of the 48 pedestrian vehicular incidents. In 2013, sixty-three percent of occupational fatalities in work zones were to the following occupations: construction laborers, highway maintenance workers , heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers, first-line supervisors of construction an extraction workers, and construction equipment operators. Private sector construction, primarily heavy/civil engineering construction and specialty trades contractors, accounted for 60% of worker fatal injuries in work zones. Service producing industries in the private sector, such as the transportation and warehousing industry and the administrative and support services industry, accounted for an additional 27 percent of worker deaths in work zones. Ten percent of workers fatally injured in work zones were in the government sector with State and Local governments each accounting for about half of government worker deaths at road construction sites in 2013.

During the 2003 to 2007 period, 639 workers were killed while working at a road construction site. During this same period there were 8,103 deaths in the construction industry. The 639 worker deaths in road construction represent 7.9% of all deaths in construction. Nearly half of these fatalities were attributable to a worker being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment—more frequently by construction equipment than by tractor-trailers, vans, and cars. In 60 percent of the cases where a worker was struck by backing vehicles or mobile equipment, the worker was fatally struck by a backing dump truck.

During the 2003 to 2010 period, 962 workers were killed while working at a road construction site. Eighty-seven percent of these deaths were to workers who were working on site at the time of the incident. The remaining 13 percent were to workers passing thorough the construction site. Workers on site were primarily killed when struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment, followed by overturns, fall from vehicle or mobile equipment, and collisions (where victim was inside vehicle or operating equipment). Workers passing through a construction site were primarily killed in collision events involving either a vehicle or mobile equipment going in the same direction, or a vehicle or mobile equipment striking a stopped vehicle or mobile equipment.

General Information – Fatality Reports and Prevention Strategies

In-house Fatality Investigations Reports on Worker Deaths in Highway Work Zone
State-based Fatality Investigations Reports on Worker Deaths in Highway Work Zone
These links provide lists of reports of fatality investigations of incidents where workers in highway work zones were killed. These investigations were conducted under the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program. Although most of the examples involve highway construction, a few cases that occurred in maintenance and utility work zones are also included.

NIOSH Protecting Workers in Construction - Preventing Injuries Related to Motor Vehicles and Equipment [PDF - 2.25 MB]
(July 2008)
NIOSH hosted a 3-day workshop that brought together 60 key stakeholders from government agencies, labor unions, and private employers to discuss measures to reduce worker injuries from vehicles and equipment. Researchers analyzed injury data, reviewed scientific literature, and developed “white papers” to focus discussion at the workshop. NIOSH then compiled research results and workshop participant input into a highway work zone safety guide.

 
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  • Page last reviewed: June 30, 2014
  • Page last updated: November 17, 2014
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