Friday, April 24, 2020

True meaning of the word service

Kevin J. Shelton, left, with his family.
By Kevin J. Shelton Growing up in the work zone. Yes, that is my story. You see, when I helped to start the company, C-Hawkk Construction Inc., I was only 19 years old. I remember opening my first set of plans and wondering, “Where do we start?”
Then my father made a statement to me, “Son, every sign that anyone will provide for this project will say the same thing, and what matters is the service that you provide behind that sign.” That has stuck with me for all of the 31 years of my career in traffic control.
I set out to try to give the best response and service that I could to that general contractor no matter the distance or time of day that a call would come into our office. I still to this day believe with everything in me how important that statement remains, but I must be honest as I write this blog about work zone safety. I believe I have learned that there are more important things that I must share.
You see as I was answering the phones and personally responding to all the calls for service and repairs, traffic switches and road closures, it became clearer to me than ever before that there are people depending upon what I do each and every day, and I am not just talking about the general contractor. Every person who drove through one of the work zones I have deployed is relying upon that work zone to get them home to their family. And then I realized that MY FAMILY was also relying upon me just as much to make it home.
Do I have personal accounts of close calls and near misses on the highway? YES I DO, and probably too many to list here. It doesn’t take too many drums knocked out of your hand while walking down the side of a roadway by a vehicle speeding by to get your attention or the sound of screeching tires on the pavement to absolutely scare you to death. That is when I decided to do everything that I could possibly do to train myself and those working with me better.
I searched for ways and ideas to make our company and employees safer from the very first day they began to work for us.  I learned through sharing those experiences of close calls and training through a great association I became involved with, ATSSA , the American Traffic Safety Services Association, which provides training, corroboration and ideas, that we could as a company do our job and do it safer.  Not only could we become safer as a company, but what we provided to the traveling public became safer as well. That is when I realized the true meaning of the word “SERVICE” that my father had been trying to teach me those many years ago. Thanks Dad!
Kevin J. Shelton is the owner/estimator of C-Hawkk Construction, Inc., in Eudora



Thursday, April 23, 2020

Please pay attention behind the wheel

Kent Portenier, left, with his family.
My name is Kent Portenier and I am the Equipment Operator Specialist on the Phillipsburg Subarea crew. I have worked for KDOT for nearly 30 years and have seen all kinds of things happen on the road.
One incident that really sticks out is from about 10 years ago. Our crew was laying an overlay patch on U.S. 36 west of Phillipsburg and it was the first time we were using a new traffic control setup with a 21-cone lead-in and 6-cone taper, along with our required signage. 
I was flagging that day. About an hour into the project, I had a small pickup stopped and waiting to proceed through the work zone. I could hear another vehicle approaching, so I stepped to the center line so it could see me and the stop paddle I was holding.
As the vehicle approached the lead-in cones, I could tell that the driver was not slowing down. I started waving my sign to get the driver’s attention, but it wasn’t working. I knew then that it was not going to get stopped and was going to hit the waiting pickup in the queue. 
I took off towards the ditch just as the driver hit the corner of the stopped pickup. The driver also swerved into the ditch and fortunately missed hitting me as I was running to safety. The vehicle continued on another hundred yards are so before finally coming to a stop.
The driver said he didn’t see any of the six warning signs or 21 lead-in cones. He had to have been distracted by something to have missed all of that. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it could have been a lot worse if things would have been off by a few seconds or inches.
We never know what the traveling public is going to do when we are out working, so we have to always be as prepared as possible. New technology, such as portable rumble strips, have helped to improve safety for us, but we still need drivers to do their part and pay attention behind the wheel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Put the focus on safety

Hi, my name is Michael Schneider I am the Highway Maintenance Supervisor at the Marion Subarea office. The increase in distracted driving has caused what I perceive as a decrease in the safety for those who work along our highways.

We’re aware of the risk involved daily while performing these duties on the roads or in a formal work zone. We all have stories of near misses, cars blowing by the flagman or the approaching vehicle that does not move over or slow down. My concern is the increased frequency that these events are taking place.

Over my 27 years with KDOT there has always been the occasional truck getting rear-ended or crash attenuator struck from behind, but now it seems to me to be a common occurrence. Every SNICE event, I expect to hear about a KDOT truck being hit, usually multiple, a KHP or other law enforcement or emergency vehicle being struck.

Seldom does a day go by while performing road surveillance that a car or truck does not pull out or turn right in front of me. Or that I experience the cringing feeling and brace to be struck from behind by an approaching vehicle that does not move over or slow down while I’m sitting on the shoulder waiting to pick up road debris. The reports of flagmen almost being hit or the motorists who just blew right pass the workers performing their duties in the work zone has become alarming and is unacceptable.

My wish is that the traveling public would become more aware that the constant need to be on a cellphone, whether it is talking (even hands free) or texting, is putting the safety of themselves and of those working in traffic at a greater risk of injury or possibly death.

We as highway workers would love nothing more than to provide the traveling public with a smooth and uninterrupted trip, but we all know that to provide that there must be maintenance and construction activities involved. Please put the phone down. When you see a KDOT truck, law enforcement or emergency vehicle, please move over or slow down. When approaching a work zone, please pay attention to the warning signs, the flagman and workers.

I feel we all can work together to reverse this alarming trend by simply doing what is responsible and giving our complete focus to the act of driving while behind the wheel. It matters to you; it matters to your family; it matters to the highway workers, law enforcement, emergency personal and their families. We want everyone to return home safely at the end of the day.

Stay safe and wash your hands!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

This is why it’s important to move over

By Caleb Provo
I was only eight months into my job at the Kansas Turnpike when my vehicle was struck on July 9, 2019. In less than one year, I already have a moment I’ll look back on and be grateful it didn’t end up a different way.
Last summer, I was with our crew doing our annual paint striping at mile marker 8.8, which is just north of the Oklahoma border. I was sitting in a dump truck with an attenuator attached to it. This was blocking the passing lane of the roadway. And a different vehicle was behind me informing traffic of the lane blockage.
Things were proceeding as normal, when I saw it out of my side mirror. In a quick instant, I see a semi that hadn’t moved over coming right at my tail end! There was no way the driver could stop in time, and he tried to—unsuccessfully—squeeze between me and the barrier wall to avoid a collision.
Ultimately, the semi driver ended up crashing into the back end of my attenuator, and I radioed to our teams that I had been hit. Then things got even crazier. A piece of metal from the attenuator broke off and pierced my fuel tank, which in and of itself is a dangerous situation.
However, to make matters worse, the impact also caused the semi to catch fire. I’m glad I was there in that moment and uninjured because I helped the driver, and his wife who was with him, out of the on-fire semi. They wanted to try and save their belongings, and I told them, “Stuff is replaceable, you aren’t.”
It’s good they got out when they did. I tried using an extinguisher on the semi, but within a matter of minutes, it was completely engulfed in flames. In less than 20 minutes, the entire thing was destroyed. You could barely recognize it.
Still to this day, I don’t know exactly why they didn’t move over, but I’m so glad this incident didn’t end up worse than what it was. Please, take a lesson from this — pay attention, read signage and move over for roadway workers. Our lives truly do depend on it.
Caleb Provo is a Structures Worker for the Kansas Turnpike Authority in Wichita

Monday, April 20, 2020

Never become complacent

Rick Carson, seated in center, is surrounded by his family.

My name is Rick Carson and I am the Equipment Operator Specialist for the Syracuse Subarea office. I am coming up on my fifth year as a KDOT employee, having served as Specialist since July 2017.
During my short tenure as a KDOT employee, I have seen quite a few different circumstances that could have turned out very bad. I learned from early on, that the best thing you can do to keep yourself safe is to keep your head on a constant swivel.
One of the most unforgettable experiences happened to me in the summer of 2019.We were patching holes on K-27 in the south part of Syracuse. The stretch of roadway is a four-lane undivided highway. The crew was working on the inside lane of the northbound lane. We had set up our work zone prior to beginning work with all the proper signs, cones, attenuator and a wedge diverting traffic into the right-hand lane. 
At some point that morning, I was standing along the center line, but still in the lane we were working in. There was some debris that had rolled over the center line, and I was going to step over the center line to sweep it back over into the hole. I was facing the north and looked to make sure no traffic was coming. 
I never turned to look south, because, there shouldn’t have been any traffic coming from that way, because we had our wedge set up pushing them right. WRONG! A truck coming from the south had crossed over the double yellow line. It was traveling north in the southbound lane and what was probably over the speed limit.
Luckily, one of my co-workers was looking that way and was able to get my attention, and I was able to step out of the way.
Thinking about it later that day, the one word that came to my mind was COMPLACENT. That day, at that particular time, I had become complacent and overly comfortable with my surroundings.
To my fellow KDOT workers, I would just like to remind you all that no matter what you are doing, always take the extra time to look around and make sure that you are doing it carefully. And, always watch out for your co-workers.
To the traveling public, KDOT does what they do, to try and keep your family safe on the highways. So in your travels, if/when you come up on any workers, anywhere, PLEASE, slow down, move over and obey the signs. Drive like it is your family out there along the side of the road. Because, we ARE somebody’s family.