Illinois roadway workers are exposed to hazardous workplace conditions that put them at high risk of serious injury and death. There are various occupations that require work near busy roadways and freeways, exposing thousands of workers to serious dangers.
Roadway Workers Face Dangers
Every year in the U.S. more than 20,000 roadway workers are injured or killed. In 2011, there were 590 fatalities, and in 2014, the fatality rate rose to 669, with approximately two deaths every day. The leading cause of roadside-related injuries and fatalities is vehicles, objects, or equipment striking or falling on workers. From 2011 to 2014, there were 80 fatalities caused by pickup trucks and SUVS that hit workers while they were working near the roadway. Crushing accidents, specifically being pinned by a vehicle, is the third leading cause of roadway accidents and injuries, followed by collisions between vehicles, and vehicles backing into or running over workers.
According to accident statistics, 25 percent of worker fatalities occur on rural roadways, compared to 19 percent that occur on urban freeways. Workers who work on busy freeways are at a higher risk for serious injuries and fatalities due to high speeds and poor visibility, especially during the evening hours or inclement weather conditions. Busy urban areas like Chicago often schedule road work during evening hours to avoid heavy traffic congestion. As a result, a workers’ compensation attorney often sees injuries that occur to roadway workers during the night shift.
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Highway workers, construction workers, and public utility workers are especially vulnerable to workplace injuries and fatalities caused by roadway accidents. In 2015, more than 40 percent of roadway construction workers reported that their construction work zones had been hit by a motor vehicle during the year. Recently, a public works employee in Crystal Lakes died when he was pinned between a construction trailer and an SUV on Miller Road.
Workplace Safe Zones
The rising number of injuries and fatalities for roadway workers has raised concerns. To prevent accidents and reduce injury claims with a workers’ compensation attorney, the Federal Highway Administration has developed ways to improve roadway safety. The National Highway Work Zone Safety Program promotes workplace safe zones for all roadway workers, as well as drivers. The program recently launched a new national outreach campaign that features radio ads in dozens of cities across the country urging motorists to slow down and stay alert while driving through roadway work zones. The Federal Highway Administration has created safety tips for drivers that focus on better workplace visibility for roadway workers:
- Slow Down – Speeds are always reduced in roadway work zones. Drivers are urged to slow down and obey posted speed limits because roadway workers often work just several feet away from traffic.
- Stay Alert – Accidents in roadway work zones often occur because drivers are not paying attention to their surroundings. Drivers should pay close attention to brake lights ahead of them and be prepared to stop quickly if necessary.
- Drive with Car Headlights On – Drivers are urged to keep headlights on while driving through roadway work zones to increase visibility for workers and other drivers. At night, bright lights should be avoided near work zones because of their blinding effects on workers.
- Minimize Distractions – Distractions like changing the radio station, talking or texting on a cell phone, and eating and drinking can cause accidents, even at slow speeds. Roadway work zone accidents can be prevented by eliminating distractions while driving.
- Merge Lanes Safely – Drivers should begin to merge into proper lanes before the lane ends. Many roadway accidents in work zones are caused by drivers who wait too long to merge into open lanes, causing them to run into work zone barrels, signs, and equipment.
- Obey Traffic Signs – Drivers must obey all posted traffic signs in a roadway work zone. Many work zones also use blinking caution lights, barrels, cones, and flaggers that warn drivers of roadway workers nearby.
Illinois Workers Compensation Claims
The statute of limitations in Illinois to file a workplace injury claim with a workers’ compensation attorney is three years from the date of the injury, or two years after the last compensation payment, whichever comes later. Workers who are injured in their workplace are entitled to benefits for missed work and lost wages, medical treatments, and emotional distress. Wage benefits typically equal two-thirds of workers’ average weekly pay.
Under the guidelines of the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, workers are entitled to three types of separate benefits for workplace injuries: medical benefits, temporary off-work benefits, and permanent disability benefits. In addition, this act prohibits both employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies from interfering with a worker’s rights. They are prohibited from threatening to fire, discharge, or discriminate against workers who file workplace injury claims with an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney.