By T. Peter Ruane
The U.S. transportation construction industry has a long history of positive safety results … and shortcomings.
Construction of the famous Brooklyn Bridge, a generation before ARTBA’s 1902 founding, is an example. One late 1870s photo shows a sign on the cable walkway leading to one of the tower tops:
Safe For Only 25 Men at One Time. Do Not Walk
Close Together, Nor Run, Jump, or Trot. Break
Step! — W.A. Roebling, engineer in chief
Roebling was clearly thinking about safety. But nearly 30 workers are estimated to have been killed on the job. Roebling himself suffered a debilitating case of “the bends” after ascending too quickly from an underwater caisson pumped with compressed air where men dug the river bottom.
Hard hats didn’t exist on this project, and safety harnesses were rare, if used at all. Such now-common safety gear is also missing from many 20th century transportation construction photos.
But, that’s not how we design and build today.
ARTBA has been a transportation construction industry safety leader since its early days. The association’s safety programs can be viewed as a three-legged stool:
- Through ARTBA’s Transportation Development Foundation (TDF), we provide a wide variety of safety education programs that have trained more than 100,000 industry workers in recent years alone. The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse (workzonesafety.org), the world’s largest online resource devoted to the topic, annually fulfills 200,000 information requests.
- TDF also offers professional development and management training programs and recognizes industry excellence through its safety awards.
- ARTBA’s legislative and regulatory advocacy—via the Traffic Safety Industry Division, the Transportation Safety Advisory Council, and Safety & Insurance Committee—helps ensure that Congress and federal agencies also keep safety top of mind.
There are many outstanding volunteer industry leaders, senior ARTBA staff and other outside expert consultants engaged in each of these three segments, and they all work to help underline one main point: safety is an ARTBA core competency. That’s why in the past year, we created the Transportation Construction Safety Center (www.artbasafetycenter.org) as a gateway to all these valuable programs and services. And it also explains why the Safety Certification for Transportation Project Professionals™ program recently earned international accreditation from the American National Standards Institute.
Many ARTBA members and firms are equally dedicated to the safety of their employees. You can read about a few of them in this annual “Safety Source.” Joined by other industry partners and public agencies, we have made great strides in reducing work zone injuries and fatalities. I suppose we could pause here to slap high-fives and pat ourselves on the back. But I’m not ready for that, not now, and not until injuries and fatalities are reduced to zero.
ARTBA’s vision for our industry is to reach the day when we don’t talk about “doing a job safely.” Rather, we look forward to when we simply say, “This is how the job is accomplished correctly.” There will be no special discussion about safety procedures because all aspects of project development and construction will incorporate the latest best practices to save lives and prevent injuries. Nobody will consider working any other way. It will simply be the only way we build.
As an advocacy group, ARTBA is relentlessly committed to pursuing this goal. We know you are with us!
Pete Ruane is president and CEO of ARTBA