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Roadway Worker Protection Summit heightens focus on safety measures

First-time event at ATSSA's Convention & Traffic Expo sets stage for further efforts & collaboration

Training and technology were identified as two important areas to address during this morning’s Roadway Worker Protection Summit, the kick-off event of ATSSA’s 51st Annual Convention & Traffic Expo.

“Training is absolutely critical,” said Kathi Holst, a four-decade member of the industry, an ATSSA board member and president & CEO of RCMS in Naperville, Ill. “If we aren’t providing training … we are negligent.”

Holst was one of four panelists for the Summit, which addressed both prevention of work zone incidents and resources for use if the worst happens and an employee gets killed on the job. ATSSA Vice President of Education & Technical Services Donna Clark and ATSS Foundation Chair Dave Krahulec moderated the discussion, which also included Doug Dolinar, who is president of Guidemark Inc. of Souderton, Pa., and also an ATSSA board member.

ATSSA's Convention & Traffic Expo is all online and continues today and through Feb. 18. It includes additional special events and nearly 50 education sessions. Registration is still open. Check out the full schedule.

Today's Summit conversation opened with Holst and Dolinar sharing their experiences of losing a roadway worker. For Holst, it has happened more than once. Dolinar lost someone in August as a result of an apparently impaired driver.

Dolinar and Holst joined the discussion with the aim of helping the roadway safety infrastructure industry come together to find ways to prevent future tragedies.

Holst emphasized the importance of a “culture of safety” and shared that at her company the workday begins and ends with a safety reminder for each employee.

Questions arose from attendees who wondered how to ensure employees take safety seriously.

All agreed that it begins at the top of the organization. Krahulec said that’s why he has every employee go through all safety training and conducts periodic testing.

Holst said ATSSA’s training such as for Traffic Control Technicians and Traffic Control Supervisors is an important part of the equation but that training must continue beyond the formal to being an everyday emphasis.

Stephanie Boileau, president of ATSSA’s Michigan Chapter, shared her observations that good policy is not enough. Companies need to model that it’s important and engage front line personnel in writing the policies so they feel buy-in and that their expertise is valued.

When Clark raised the idea of “extreme measures for positive protection,” Dolinar said he wants to see extreme measures enacted so additional people aren’t killed in work zones.

He mentioned vehicle arresting systems and queue control and said people are “inches from death” as they work.

No one had a ready answer as to how technology could be used to eliminate work zone fatalities but the topic garnered a lot of interest.

“As long as workers and motorists are sharing the road, we have risks,” Holst said. “Most crashes probably could be identified way in advance of encountering our workers … so what technology can we [implement] to get our workers out of harm’s way?”

The answers weren’t found in today’s two-hour session but ATSSA’s Clark said the conversation would continue. She said additional summits will be organized and many conversations will be held to work toward solutions. She encouraged anyone who wanted to send information or serve on a team to help find answers to email her (donna.clark@atssa.com) by Feb. 28.

After experiencing the loss of an employee, Dolinar is determined to do all he can to prevent another worker from being killed.

“The problem exists. There’s a lot of smart people here. We need to solve the problem,” he said.

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