Every year, winter’s grip across the state of Minnesota eventually weakens and the road construction season begins. Despite efforts to promote a safe work environment in construction zones, preventable injuries and loss of life lead to workers’ compensation claims.
Orange Cone Season Underway
On April 13, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced 211 road construction projects for 2017. These projects have a total value of approximately $1 billion. The “orange cone season” creates hazards for road workers and vehicle occupants alike. Lane closures are inevitable on Interstate 94 as more than four dozen bridges are repaired and/or resurfaced from Minneapolis to Brooklyn Center.
Many Injuries and Fatalities
With every new road construction season comes injuries and even fatalities. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says more than 20,000 injuries occur every year in road construction work zones. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1,435 workers died in road construction work zones from 2003-2014. Many of these are due to crashes.
In July 2015, MnDOT published its “Work Zone Crash Report.” The state agency has a program, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD), designed to eventually reduce work zone fatalities to zero. For the three-year period 2012-14, the report states there were 5,569 crashes that injured 2,270 individuals and killed 24 more. According to the report, 44 percent of all work zone crashes were due to lane shifts and crossovers, and another 14 percent were due to lane closures.
How Construction Workers Get Injured
An analysis of injuries sustained in the United States from 2003 to 2008 reveals the most common reasons for worker injuries in work zones. More than one-third (35 percent) involve some sort of contact with equipment or other objects. Slips, falls and trips cause another one-fifth of the injuries, while overexertion is responsible for 15 percent more. Twelve percent of worker injuries in road construction zones are transportation-related, and five percent are linked to exposure to harmful substances.
Work Zone Safety Tips
Motorists in road construction work zones are advised to keep workers and fellow travelers safe by:
- Remaining alert at all times
- Keeping headlights on
- Always expecting the unexpected
- Watching for signs and workers with flags
- Keeping distractions to a minimum
- Not speeding or tailgating
- Avoiding lane-changing in a work zone
- Understanding that patience is a virtue
Drivers should always understand that little is gained by speeding through a work zone. For example, if a work zone is two miles long and the temporary speed limit is 45 mph rather than the usual 65 mph, a driver saves less than a minute by speeding through the construction area at 65 mph rather than going the legal speed of 45 mph. Speeding in a work zone is dangerous, and fines are often increased in these construction zones.
When workers are victims in work zone accidents, they are covered by Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws. Workers typically qualify for benefits which compensate for medical expenses and lost wages. Other benefits are typically paid when a worker permanently loses the use of some part of his/her body. When a worker dies, survivors qualify for death benefits.
Sometimes, victims in construction zone accidents may seek compensation from a so-called “third party” whose negligence was a factor in the accident. When this happens, it is often possible to seek compensatory damages for pain, suffering, lost wages and other losses under the state’s personal injury statutes.
If you or a family member is a victim in a work zone or other accident, it is possible to speak with an attorney about the details at no cost to you. Our firm fights hard to ensure that our clients receive the full compensation to which they are entitled. To get more information, or to arrange for your complimentary consultation, please contact us.