State Department of Transportation Highway Maintenance Worker Dies After Being Struck by a Car While Installing Reflectors on a GuardrailAbstract:
On October 30, 2000, a 47-year-old male State Department of Transportation (DOT) maintenance worker (the victim) died after he was struck by a car that intruded into a work zone where he and a coworker were installing reflectors on a guardrail located along the median of an interstate highway. Shortly before the incident, the victim and his coworker placed “WORK AREA AHEAD” signs 1,000 feet in advance of their work area on both the south and north shoulders of the westbound lanes. After placing the signs, they drove west and parked their work truck on the north shoulder across the road and west of the section of guardrail they planned to work on. They walked across the traffic lanes and then turned and walked eastward on the shoulder facing oncoming traffic. They walked approximately 650 feet to an area where they began their work installing reflectors. They walked westward working their way back toward their work truck, stopping every 12.5 feet to install reflectors on the guardrail. Both workers were working from the traffic side of the guardrail when the victim’s coworker looked up, saw a car approaching in the left lane headed toward them, and yelled a warning to the victim. The coworker was able to lift one leg over the guardrail and get out of the car’s travel path before the car struck the guardrail and then the victim. The impact threw the victim over the guardrail and down a ravine into the 200-foot-wide median separating the eastbound and westbound traffic lanes. The driver involved in the incident did not stop. When stopped by police later that day, he said he had fallen asleep before the impact. The coworker was not injured and ran across the highway to his work truck and radioed his employer for help. The employer called 911. The coworker ran back to help the victim but, finding him unresponsive, went back up to the highway to wait for emergency medical services (EMS) personnel. EMS personnel responded within 20 minutes, checked the victim and determined that he had sustained fatal injuries. They called the coroner who pronounced the victim dead at the scene. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should, at a minimum:
adopt policies that require workers to work on the median side of the guardrail whenever it is safe to do so
periodically monitor and evaluate employee conformance with safe operating procedures and provide retraining as necessary when the procedures are not followed
establish a formal process for scheduling highway maintenance tasks, including installing reflectors, that identifies the need for consideration of appropriate crew size, traffic control devices, and safe work practices for the tasks to be performed.
Federal, State and local highway transportation and enforcement agencies should continue their efforts in educating the public regarding work zone safety issues and safe navigation through work zones.