Construction Laborer Working in Highway Work Zone Struck by Van, Michigan

Michigan Case Report: 15MI110
Report Date: 01/16/2019


In fall 2015, a Hispanic male construction laborer in his 40s died when he was struck by a van traveling in the closed right lane of a highway work zone. The decedent and coworker, wearing high visibility vests, were on break from sealing pavement cracks and were standing behind/near their parked “kettle truck”. The 2-mile long work zone started with signage, then orange/white barrels forming a taper and an arrow board on the right shoulder closing the far right lane of the expressway. Tall orange/white cones were placed on the division lines dividing the center and right lane. Per contract with the MDOT, no reduction in speed was required from the posted 55 mph and no mobile attenuator was used. The work operation was performed at night. The incident area was lit by overhead streetlamp lighting and the lighting on the kettle truck. Two highway entrance ramps in the work zone had been closed; ramp #1 was approximately one mile away and ramp #2 was near the area where the decedent was working. The van driver lived very near ramp #2. It appears that the van driver may have disregarded the barricades at ramp #2. The responding police indicated that the kettle truck was covered in tar and was difficult to see, and due to limited streetlamp lighting, the van driver may not have been able to see the truck. The rear of the kettle truck did have overhead spot lights on, for the work operation. The van driver was traveling, at a minimum, 60mph and did not apply his brakes before striking the both of the workers and the kettle truck. A witness reported to police that the van was driving in the closed work zone lane in an area past ramp #2.


  • The vehicle driver may have disregarded traffic barricade, entered construction work lane, did not merge into
    travel lane.
  • The driver of the vehicle striking the decedent was impaired due to illegal and prescription drugs.
  • The tar components covering kettle truck making it difficult to see in low light conditions.
  • The high visibility vests were in poor condition, covered with tar components
  • The MDOT contract terms prohibiting trailing attenuator, speed reduction.


  • Employers should ensure equipment and workers are visible when working at night. This could include, but not be limited to, additional lighting and clean high visibility vests/clothing.
  • Use an audible warning alarm system to alert workers of a work zone intrusion or other emergency.
  • Michigan Department of Transportation should require the use of traffic trucks with impact attenuators for construction work zones on interstate highways with high speed and/or high volume.
  • Employers performing highway maintenance work should consider using additional traffic control devices and warning signs to supplement the minimum signs recommended by the Michigan Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD).
  • The employer should implement all of the MIOSHA Safety and Health Recommendations issued at the conclusion of the MIOSHA fatality investigation.
  • Employers should ensure their written health and safety programs and employee training are in a language the workers can understand.
  • To provide a more accurate document in roadway fatality investigations, investigating agencies should review current procedures to include the use of new and proven technology, such as drones with cameras.
  • Operators of motor vehicles should not drive while impaired and always adhere to roadway warning signage.

Construction Laborer Working in Highway Work Zone Struck by Van, Michiganpdf icon [PDF 1,468 KB]

Page last reviewed: May 7, 2020