Last year, the federal highway system in the United States celebrated its 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely good news. Any system that’s 50 years old is probably in need of serious repair and upgrade. The federal highway system is no exception.
Over the next decade, the older portions of the system must be milled and resurfaced. At the same time, thousands of overpasses and bridges must be torn up and rebuilt. Many highways and junctures must be expanded.
Highway construction is replete with hazards, and repairing old roadways adds some different safety challenges, particularly in regard to night work and silica exposure.
New road construction involves moving earth and pouring cement, but generally does not require pavement breaking or surface milling, both of which produce substantial amounts of silica-laced dust. About 45 percent of all construction workers in the U.S. are employed on highway, street, bridge, tunnel or elevated highway projects, and studies show that their mean exposure to silica is greater than OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL).
Another new factor in highway work – as in all construction work – is the increasing percentage of foreign-born workers whose native language is not English. Though capable, these employees often are not very experienced in congested, North American road work and have no formal safety training. These shortcomings are compounded by the possibility that they and their English-speaking co-workers may not understand each other well in a moment of serious danger.
Roadway Safety Program
In its ongoing effort to support, strengthen and help systematize work zone safety training, the LHSFNA continued its long-running partnership with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) in 2005. The partnership produced the Roadway Safety Program, one of the most innovative training tools available anywhere.
The Roadway Safety Program was upgraded during 2005 and now covers the 14 most common highway work zone hazards, including night work and silica exposure. With a click of the mouse, the CD-ROM version switches from English to Spanish to Portuguese or from U.S. units to the metric system. The CD also includes voice files that allow an English-speaking instructor to play all the modules in Spanish or Portuguese. In addition, the newest version contains an option to display OSHA standards and guidance from NIOSH and other sources that are relevant to a particular hazard.
The program is available from OSHA as well as any of the partner organizations. LIUNA signatory contractors and business managers can order online at www.lhsfna.org (click Publications).