Tuesday, April 4, 2017

If drivers could see what we see

By Ross Weber
I am Ross Weber and I am the Hutchinson Branch Manager for APAC-Kansas, Inc. Shears Division.
Ross Weber
We spend a lot of time making our work zones safe. It is planned for in our pre-bid evaluations and followed up on throughout the project. We analyze how we can protect our employees from the public as well as how we can protect the public from us. When we see something in our plan isn’t working, we make changes to the situation.
Work zones are a change to the normal traffic pattern. We train our employees constantly about avoiding distractions while in the work zone. We have no training with the public.
We spend a lot of time in training discussing the distractions we see occurring with drivers in our work zone. A lot of people are looking at their phones or talking on their phones. I followed a man through a work zone last year that was watching a movie on his I-Pad. We see people that are asleep, others that are drunk. Imagine someone driving through your workplace watching a movie at 70 mph.
While construction workers are occasionally injured or even killed in work zone accidents, the vast majority of the serious injuries and all of the deaths I have witnessed in 31 years of construction involved the public.
It is devastating to us when our co-workers are injured at work or anywhere else. We work hard to prevent it. We have become adept at avoiding distracted drivers, we know they are there every day. Some of us have known each other and our families for years - it is personal when one of us is injured.
Equally devastating are the accidents involving the public; construction workers are the first responders at work zone accidents. We witness the destruction to vehicles and people that occur when people run into our equipment and each other. All too often we are the ones that administer first aid and comfort until EMS arrives. These accidents take a toll on us emotionally. While most of the time we don’t know the victims of the accidents, we know that like us, they have people expecting them to come home.
If people driving through our work zones could see what construction workers see, they would put down the phones, the I-Pads, the computers, hairbrushes, razors, cheeseburgers and anything else that distracts them and just drive their car.




  1. It is incredible to read about the amount of training our work zone workers go through so they can work on our roads. It is really hard to imagine going to work and being constantly on guard to get out of the way should the unexpected happen.

    All highway workers are incredible for the hard work that they do and for all they have to deal with. Although it is completely obvious now that you mention it, I have never thought about how they are the first responders following a work zone crash. But after hearing stories about crews in Sedan Kansas who attempted to save a man's life from a burning truck it doesn't surprise me. I can only imagine what they have seen...

    Thank you for your story, Ross and for all the hard work that APAC and other highway workers do to keep our roads and infrastructure intact. I hope that drivers realize that highway workers have lives and families waiting at home for them and put those distractions away.

  2. I really wish there was work zone training for the public. That would really help open a lot of eyes to some of the things that can happen in an instance. Thank you for all that you do to help keep everyone safe.

    1. That would be a great idea! Education is always important and it never hurts to be reminded over and over if needed the importance of work zone safety.

  3. Unfortunately people driving don't focus on safety as much as how to get there quickly with the least amount of inconvenience. Little does one imagine that tragedy is a second away and can come to anyone, being safe or not. It is good that the so much emphasis is placed on safety and education in the transportation department. How can we extend that more powerfully to the public?

    As the parent of a son killed working in a work zone I got that notification that we all dread, that my son had been killed while taking the correct safety precautions. Could his death have been avoided? I will never know. I do know that people make mistakes, but we can education them to be aware and do their best so that everyone can go home to loved ones.

    I have never asked if those on the job when an injury or death occur are given grief counseling and evaluation for post traumatic stress. I hope so, as the effect is both immediate and long lasting. I am sure that you have witnessed carnage that no one should have to and then are expected to go back out and place yourselves in jeopardy again and again. You are owed a tremendous debt for devoting your lives to public safety. Take care of yourselves.

    1. We're so sorry for your loss. Transportation safety partners work together year-round to raise awareness for safety in work zones in hopes that future tragedies are prevented.