Building on efforts over the past several years, the New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund (NELHSF) continues to make its roadway work zone safety program a top priority for 2004.

April 4-8 is National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, but the NELHSF dedicated the entire month to commemorate the fifth anniversary of this important observance. Through a multi-faceted regional campaign known as The Cone Zone, the Fund supplements the national campaign that is primarily designed to inform the motoring public. Significantly, The Cone Zone includes an additional element to educate Laborers and contractors about the dangers inherent to work zones and how to avoid them.

Work site visits, toolbox talks and safety meetings are a major component of the NELHSF’s initiative. The goal of the visits is to help Laborers, contractors, stewards and safety personnel understand work zone hazards by providing information on the proper technological, engineering and administrative controls needed to ensure a safe, accident-free site. Reference is made to the standards, regulations and guidelines necessary to establish safe operating practices. The hazards covered include pedestrian hazards, equipment occupant hazards, struck-by hazards, fall hazards, electrical hazards, caught-in hazards and ergonomic/overexertion hazards.

The Fund also includes a training element in its initiative. Working in unison with its sister fund, the New England Laborers’ Training Trust Fund, the NELHSF arranges for work zone safety training of Laborers throughout the region. In conjunction with National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, the Fund has arranged an OSHA 10-hour Roadway Construction Industry training class for the public employees of Laborers’ Local Union 1033. Additionally, LIUNA members employed by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation will be trained for flagging duties during the week.

Plans for the month-long observance also include the distribution of work zone material to all construction locals in the New England region. A special episode of the Fund’s quarterly Spotlight video is instructional in nature, highlighting the dangers to workers in the Cone Zone and the precautionary measures needed to elude them. Local unions customarily show the video to their members at monthly meetings.

To help advance work zone safety and encourage a change in the attitudes and habits of Laborers and motorists alike, the Fund is including outreach components in its initiative. The New England Laborers’ Update magazine and the NELHSF Spotlight newsletter will both reach out to Laborers, their families, signatory contractors and government agencies and officials with articles relating to work zone safety.

The Spotlight newsletter includes a message from the Fund’s Chairman, LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and New England Regional Manager Armand E. Sabitoni. With the beginning of another season of highway construction fast approaching, Sabitoni urges members to observe Work Zone Safety Awareness Week. “Last year over 100 unsuspecting workers’ lives were cut short due to work zone fatalities. By informing the public at large, we hope motorists driving through work zones will have an increased awareness of the safety measures needed to protect workers as well as themselves. Our goal is to have all motorists drive through work zones as if a member of their family was performing the work.”

The combination of public outreach with special emphasis on Laborer training is a hallmark of the New England Region’s approach to work zone safety initiatives, and it won the 2002 Private Outreach Campaign award from the National Safety Council and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association for just that approach.

[John Anatone is the New England Region’s Tri-Fund Field Coordinator.]