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Work Zone Safety

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We’re All in This Together

by Josh Rapp, Project Manager for Knife River Materials, Central Point

Even though the calendar may show spring, road construction takes place year-round — and so do crashes inside the work zone.

Each year in Oregon, there are nearly 500 accidents in work zones. Each year, an average of five people are killed in those accidents. That is a tragedy we have witnessed firsthand, and we would like to partner with you so no one is in that position again.

Like you, the Knife River team wants everyone to get home safely each day. The three main causes of work-zone crashes are inattention, speed and driving too fast. Each of those things are preventable.

Day and night, depending on the project, my teammates and I are on the side of the road – or in the middle of a lane closure, working on projects to improve our valley.

Throughout my life, I’ve been in several hostile places. I served as an Infantry Officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though the environment is much different here in our beautiful state, my teammates and I are still working in a dangerous place. Currently, we are working alongside the I-5 off-ramp at Exit 33 in Central Point.

Although our crew tries to keep our work area safe, the situation is dynamic and constantly changing with each passing vehicle. Is the next driver drunk? Distracted? Sleepy? At highway speeds, things happen fast.

We wear our high-visibility vests to be seen. Unlike the vests our soldiers wear in Iraq and Afghanistan that are designed to mitigate the threat of a projectile, no safety vest is designed to take the impact of a vehicle.

We understand that things happen in the work zone. One time I noticed a sedan driving in our work zone on a berm of dirt. When I arrived, the two passengers said their phone’s mapping app showed the berm as the way to a nearby winery. Surprisingly, they chose to obey the phone and not the warnings of the work zone signs, cones and barrels. This type of dangerous situation can be avoided by driving the posted speed limit and paying careful attention to work zone safety signs and devices.

Not only are construction workers at risk, but crashes in work zones also kill and hurt motorists and their passengers. When you see the markings of a highway work zone, please pay attention and slow down. Orange is a universal road construction color.  Typically, law enforcement is nearby. Work-zone fines double—whether work is going on or not—as a reminder work zones are serious places.

Like you, I live here. I’m married and have four kids. They’re active in sports. I’m active in the community. Even though I have been stationed many places across the US and overseas, I chose to return to my beloved valley where I was raised. My family loves to hike and travel around southern Oregon when we can. My roots are planted here and so are those of my co-workers at Knife River, the staff of other construction companies and our ODOT partners.

Please remember, the people under the hardhats and behind the vests are hard-working, caring members of our community who show up each day or night to give it their best. It’s our responsibility, both as workers and the public, to ensure that everyone is safe.

At the end of the day, we’re all in this together!

« Back to the May 2019 edition