PORT JERVIS — When you ask CSEA members working on our roads and highways about the incidents and near misses they’ve experienced in work zones, you’re unlikely to find one who doesn’t have a story to share.
Hearing those firsthand accounts doesn’t just highlight the dangers of the job. It creates a personal connection with the people doing this work, something that may provide greater motivation for drivers to slow down, be patient and stay alert in work zones.
“When you hear directly from workers about their experiences in work zones, it puts things in perspective and makes you realize the responsibility you have as a driver,” said Southern Region President Anthony M. Adamo. “It really makes it sink in when you’re going through that work zone. These workers mean the world to their families and they need to make it home at the end of the day.”
National Work Zone Awareness Week took place April 17-21, during which time CSEA highlighted the story of CSEA Town of Yorktown Unit member Jake Arcara, who died on the job last September after he was hit in a work zone.
City of Port Jervis Unit workers referenced Arcara as they discussed their own experiences in work zones.
While the Port Jervis workers didn’t know him, they said their hearts go out to Arcara’s loved ones because they’ve seen how things can go wrong even when they’ve set up a work zone using every recommended precaution. That’s due to driver behavior.
During National Work Zone Awareness Week, CSEA teamed up with local news outlet MidHudsonNews.com to highlight work zone safety awareness via photo and video coverage at a work zone Port Jervis Department of Public Works employees set up to accommodate tree trimming.
Motorists had been waiting for under a minute for a flagger to turn a traffic paddle from “stop” to “slow” when one vehicle waiting in line proceeded to make a sharp U-turn into oncoming traffic to avoid the work zone, right near pedestrians and other vehicles.
While shocking to some who witnessed it, CSEA member Kevin Degroat and Assistant DPW Director Wayne Addy said that was far from the worst they’ve seen.
They recounted a story from last year during paving season, when a tractor trailer carrying part of a modular home sped through a DPW work zone by steering half of his truck up onto newly replaced sidewalk, blowing out two tires in the process.
Police apprehended the driver after other city workers spotted the truck disabled on a road on the outskirts of the city. The driver narrowly avoided hitting a CSEA member and the city had to replace the sidewalk.
Years earlier, three Port Jervis workers narrowly escaped serious injuries or death when they were out picking up recyclables. The driver who nearly hit them, it turns out, hadn’t taken the time to defrost her front windshield and couldn’t see them.
Those anecdotes reinforce the role drivers play in work zone safety.
“Please just give us a little respect and slow down when we’re out there in a work zone,” said Degroat, a DPW foreman. “We want to go home to our families at the end of the day.”
Learn more about our union’s work zone safety efforts at cseany.org/wza.
— Jessica Ladlee