Eight hundred sixty-eight construction cones, bright orange, formed a curving grid on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on April 9th. It was not drivers’ training nor police school. The cones represented the lives of men, women and children unnecessarily killed on a roadway because of construction projects. The unsettling display kicked off National Work Zone Awareness Week.

We are appalled at any death in our industry. We shutter and shake our heads. We say something should be done. Some voice their outrage to the transportation organizations that oversee legislation to avoid such tragic incidents.

But as individuals we can oversee our own fate. We can push in our efforts to save the lives of friends, family and coworkers.

Workers in the roadway construction industry (including surveyors) are employed in one of America’s most dangerous occupations, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. They face hazards from working with and around heavy vehicles and equipment, and are exposed to dangers posed by traffic and confined spaces. We all know this. Yet, there are still deaths in roadway work zones—868 in 1999; 37,000 more reported cases of injuries. Much of this can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of safety concerns.

It’s Up to You.

I’ve come to respect a great number of you in this industry and I don’t want you to die. So, please, heed this warning. Protect yourself. Oversee others. Know what to do before a potential accident, and during and after one.

“I feel that safety for surveyors has been touched on only briefly as far as most companies in the country,” says Ron Koons, president of RoSaKo Enterprises, one of the few true companies specializing in safety for surveyors. “I am seeing more of an emphasis in the larger companies that also have engineering personnel. But the small surveying companies really have a long, long way to go.”

As appalling as I find this, there are no requirements for safety training to become licensed in most states. So, it’s up to you. Contact a safety specialist. Set up a training session through your local OSHA office. Request a safety course to be offered at your next annual state conference or chapter meeting.

I know, I know, it costs money. But courses are available at a minimum of $15 to $20 up to a couple hundred bucks. Worth your life? I think so. And think about these tidbits:

• OSHA is beginning to require that at least one person on every crew complete a safety training course. Or else.

• Studies have shown that even a small injury on the job can cost up to $2,600 per day for each employee.

• Unreported incidents to OSHA can result in a fine of $5,000 per day. Do you know what to do?

• The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 4.2 million lives have been saved through improved safety practices since the Council was established in 1913.

Safety training: less than two days, no more than a few hundred dollars. Your life and the lives of those you care for. Need I say more?

I want to hear from you. Send me an E-mail to brownl@bnp.com or mail to 755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Ste. 1000, Troy, MI 48084.