Contributor: Ariana Hanaity – Communications Coordinator, VPPPA
National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is just around the corner, starting next week from April 17-21. The annual event is observed nationwide and aims to raise awareness and encourage safe driving through highway work zones. NWZAW brings together public agencies, national roadway safety organizations, companies, and individuals to promote the importance of work zone safety. The Missouri Department of Transportation (VDOT) is the host agency for this year’s event, and the 2023 theme is “You play a role in work zone safety. Work with us.”
Work Zone Statistics
Work zones are an essential part of infrastructure maintenance and construction, but they can also be hazardous environments for workers and drivers alike. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there were 1,061 fatalities in the construction industry in 2019, with 36% of those fatalities occurring in the transportation industry, which includes road construction and maintenance work. In addition to the risk to workers, drivers in work zones are also at risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in the same year, there were 762 fatal crashes in work zones, resulting in 842 fatalities. Of those fatalities, 135 were road workers. These statistics illustrate the importance of work zone safety and the need for increased awareness and education.
History of NWZAW
The history of NWZAW dates back to 1997 when a group of VDOT staff members in southwestern Virginia wanted to dedicate a week to raise awareness about work zone safety among all district employees before construction projects picked up during the warmer months. In 1999, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began its statewide public awareness campaign, “Slow for the Cone Zone.” In 1998, VDOT first presented the idea to create a national campaign to ATSSA officials. In December 1999, ATSSA approached the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to launch the first official NWZAW.
The first official NWZAW kickoff event was held in 2000 in Springfield, Virginia. The site where the kickoff event is held now alternates each year from being hosted in the Washington, D.C. area to different locations across the United States. State transportation departments can submit applications to host the event on those alternate years.
Participate in NWZAW 2023
Monday, April 17 — Work Zone Safety Training Day
NWZAW will start on April 17 with Work Zone Safety Training Day, which emphasizes the importance of laying the groundwork for safety through the training of personnel. Companies were encouraged to pause during the workday for safety demonstrations, discussions about safety policies, and other prevention steps.
Tuesday, April 18 — National Kickoff Event
The NWZAW 2023 kickoff event will be hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) at the new I-70 westbound bridge over the Missouri River near Rocheport, 10-11 a.m. CT. The speaking portion of the news conference will last approximately 30 minutes, then will open to media interviews.
The kickoff will be live-streamed by MoDOT for nationwide participation. When available, the live stream link will be posted on the MoDOT webpage.
Wednesday, April 19 — Go Orange Day
All roadway safety professionals across the country are encouraged to wear orange to proudly show their support of work zone safety. NWZAW and Go Orange Day are especially important to the families of victims who have lost their lives in work zones.
Show your support on social media by posting your orange pics and using the hashtags #NWZAW and #Orange4Safety.
Thursday, April 20 — Social Media Storm
Organizations, companies, institutions, and individuals are asked to share messages and use hashtags #NWZAW and #WorkZoneSafety throughout social media between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET.
Friday, April 21 — Moment of Silence
The Moment of Silence started in 2022 and encourages companies and families to join together for a moment of silence as a tribute to the people who lost their lives in a work zone incident.
Motor vehicle safety is one of the most important things on the roadways, as millions of workers use them as part of their jobs, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S.
- OSHA – Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes
- NIOSH – Distracted driving (animated image) and Motor Vehicle Safety at Work
- NSC – Safe Driving Kit
- NHTSA – Distracted Driving (Distraction.gov)
- WHO – Mobile phone use: a growing problem of driver distraction
- CDC – Distracted Driving and Parents Are the Kay to Safe Teen Drivers
- FHWA – 2022 Fact Sheet
- FMCSA – Work Zone Safety: Shareable Material
In conclusion, work zone safety is everyone’s responsibility. It is essential to be aware of your surroundings and follow the signs and instructions given in work zones to prevent accidents and fatalities. By participating in NWZAW 2023, individuals and organizations can play a crucial role in promoting work zone safety and helping prevent work zone-related accidents and fatalities. Let us work together to make our roads safer for everyone.
For additional information about this year’s NWZAW campaign and how to participate, visit nwzaw.org.
American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). (2023). National Work Zone Awareness Week 2023. Retrieved from https://www.atssa.com/Events/NWZAW/National-Work-Zone-Awareness-Week-2023
Center for Construction Research and Training. Work Zone Safety Training Day. Retrieved from https://www.cpwr.com/research/work-zone-safety-training-day/
Federal Highway Administration. National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. Retrieved from https://www.workzonesafety.org/
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (2022). Work Zone Safety. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/work-zone-safety
NWZAW. (2023). History of NWZAW. https://www.nwzaw.org/history/
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). (2023). National Work Zone Awareness Week. Retrieved from https://www.transportation.gov/workzonesafety/national-work-zone-awareness-week
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). (2023). Missouri Department of Transportation to Host 2023 National Work Zone Awareness Week. Retrieved from https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/missouri-department-transportation-host-2023-national-work-zone-awareness-week
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. (2022). National Work Zone Awareness Week 2022: Summary Report. Retrieved from https://www.nwzaw.org/pdf/2022_summary_report.pdf