Highway workers rely on you for safety

Imagine you’re sitting in your office trying to meet a fast approaching deadline. You’re focused. In the zone and making significant progress.

All of the sudden you hear a noise. You look up at the ceiling of your office just as someone falls through the ceiling tile, landing on you and breaking your arm.

You had been told by management that electrical work was being done in your building, and that you needed to be on the lookout for the workers. But, you never thought you would be put directly in harm’s way by this work.

This scenario is probably a little far-fetched, but it speaks to an expectation everyone has: that no harm will come to them while they are on the job.

Each morning, Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) maintenance and construction crews leave the safety of their homes to ensure the safety of Mississippi’s highways with this same expectation.

However, the nature of the work they do puts them in harm’s way every day.

Almost 75 percent of MDOT’s approximately 3,400 employees work in the field alongside traffic as part of their job. They work only feet away from vehicles traveling at high speeds.

Mississippi’s highways are the “office” of MDOT’s maintenance and construction crews. They work as safe as possible, but their work environment can be unpredictable.

“MDOT’s crews undergo extensive safety training before heading out into the field, and they follow strict federal, state and agency guidelines that ensure they are working as safely as possible,” said Melinda McGrath, P.E., MDOT executive director. ““However, our crews work in an unpredictable environment. Even when they are following safety guidelines, the traveling public plays a huge role in keeping MDOT workers safe.”

Every spring, National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is held to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety, and mobility issues in work zones. MDOT will join the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) and other state DOTs across the country to recognize the week of April 8-12 as NWZAW 2019.

Highway work zones are meant to protect you, the traveling public, and the highway workers on the side of the road. Highway work zones can be found throughout the state and often present unfamiliar traffic conditions. Examples of common work zones can be found here.

Work zones are marked with signs and advanced warnings to give drivers as much notice as possible before entering the work zone. No matter how many signals are in place, no work zone is safe unless drivers pay attention and slow down. A complete list of safe driving tips can be found here.

MDOT maintenance and construction staff are trained to work on Mississippi’s highways. Regardless of the amount of training or how well a work zone is set up, these crews rely on drivers to keep them safe and help them get home to their families at the end of the day.

“MDOT crews put their lives on the line every day,” said McGrath. “Imagine if it were one of your loved ones on the highway. How would you want drivers to travel through that work zone?”