Safety - from my point of view

By Pete Quinlan

Safety is the upmost priority on every job.  A serious workplace injury or death changes lives forever.  Not just for the workplace, but for families, friends, communities, and coworkers too.  Human loss and suffering is immeasurable.  No monetary value can be put on your employee’s life. 

If someone were to ask you why safety is important, how would you respond?  You may “know” that it’s important to keep safety in mind as you go about your daily work, but how would you explain the reasons why this is the case?  Here is something to think about.

Humans become tolerable to their environment over a period of time.  When I am on a heavy highway job, I am tolerable and comfortable with traffic flying by at 80 mph.  I can go about my work and think nothing of it. 

When someone new comes out to the job, such as an inspector or contractor, and an 18-wheeler passes by at 75 mph, I can for sure expect a “deer in the headlight look!”  Everyone needs to pay attention to what they are doing and watch their surroundings.  Every year you hear on the news where a contractor or KDOT worker was struck by a vehicle and killed.  These accidents can be prevented. 

Besides paying attention to your work environment, highway workers need to make sure they have the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Can I be seen by motorist?  A worker needs to be sure his vest is bright and in good condition.

As the superintendent on the job, my ultimate goal is to make sure everyone goes home at night to see their families.

Pete Quinlan is with Bettis Asphalt & Construction, Inc.



Move over for workers

Scott Thompson, KTA Assistant Foreman, shares his scary, personal story about an incident in a work zone October 2014.

It was October 28, 2014. I remember it was around lunchtime and it was a nice, bright sunny day. We were working on patching a part of the road at mile marker 204. The road was down to one lane on the outside. To keep safe, we had a crash barrier with an arrow board on the back of a truck to signal to drivers we were around.

The wind was breezy that day, so I let a car pass by - I didn’t want it to get asphalt on it. Then I stepped out on the divider line. I saw another car coming, and I believed I was making eye contact with the driver. The next thing I knew, that car swerved over and hit the cone just in front of our barrier truck. I yelled, “Look out!” and rushed two steps back. The car went down into that hole where I was standing! The driver came out of the hole and just barely missed our other truck. She took out more cones while she fled the scene.

Fortunately, we were able to call it in to troopers who caught up with the driver later down the road, thanks to the good description a fellow co-worker got of the vehicle and the driver. We later learned that she admitted to the trooper she fell asleep at the wheel.

If I hadn’t seen that vehicle, it’s likely I wouldn’t have gotten out of the way in time. My co-worker who was on a truck would have most likely been hit as well. I guess it just wasn’t my day to die, and I’m grateful for that!

If you’re driving through a work zone, remember to slow down and pay attention. Move over for workers. When you see those arrow boards telling you to move over, do so immediately, not later. Workers put their lives at risk making the roads better for you.

You will always be loved

By Shirley McDonald
Before you turn on the ignition of your vehicle, take a moment and a deep breath.  Focus.  Clear your mind and think safety for yourself and others.  Engage your seat belt, forget the cell phone. 
Before entering a work zone, pay attention to the alerts that are given well before entry into the zone.  Think about those whose lives depend upon you.  We have all heard these admonitions, unfortunately many do not really listen to the message. Save a life, it may be your own.
In memory of Scott McDonald
killed in a work zone June 1, 2005:
A fraction of a second, a different decision, more awareness, and response ability and you might still be here with your family and friends.  A horrific work zone accident on highway 75 took you away from us 10 years ago and our memories, dreams and plans with you and for you all changed. 
Now you are immortalized, frozen in time while we go on living.  You are missed every second of every day. Your loss created a hole that cannot be filled.  A piece of each of us left behind died with you. Thankfully, you gave so much to us during your life that we can hold on to who you were and who you were becoming, but we will never know who you would have become. 
Your enthusiasm for life, your constant dreaming that life would always get better, knowing that effort and direction in life could get you where you wanted to be are sorely missed. Your commitment to caring for and about others is a precious memory. Each holiday, birthday, anniversary, special shared event becomes a time of sadness and memory of you and your lack of presence in our lives today. We have had to learn to get beyond constant grief and focus on today and what we can do to honor your name. 
As we have said goodbye to other relatives and friends our grief for your loss has swelled again and threatened to overtake us, but that grief has also proven to us that life goes on and that even with grief there can be joy as we commit to other relationships taking the risk to lose again knowing the benefits of being connected.
No one knows what happens when we die. But my mother's belief is that heaven exists and that you are there at peace and with those you have loved who have gone before you. I believe that you can see those of us left behind and serve as our angel. You will always be loved.
Shirley McDonald is the mother of KDOT employee Scotty McDonald, who was killed in a work zone crash in 2005.


By Casey Simoneau

Often times, I hear how inconvenient work zones can be.  People complain that they add 15 minutes to their trip and the lanes are too narrow.  I also hear that when there are no workers present, why should I have to slow down?  All of these are complaints are minimal compared to the cost of not obeying the safety markings, signs or cones that are designed to keep the workers’ as safe as possible.

What may be an inconvenience to you may be the opportunity to go home for others.   What exactly does this mean?   This means that taking that extra time to slow down and obey the safety devices allows for these individuals working in the work zones to go home at night.  The greatest gift of life that we are given is family.  To me, a 15-minute “inconvenience” is a small price to pay to allow these families to get to enjoy more time together.  
Yes, sometimes the lanes may be narrow, but this allows workers the most adequate space between what is potentially a deadly scenario and the ability to complete their job.   Workers in an office or cubicle are allowed and expect to have room to complete their jobs.  Why should highway workers be any different?  They need their space as well.  So yes, while the narrower lanes may be an inconvenience to some, it’s a safety barrier for others.
At times there may be no workers present during the construction phase.  However, humans are creature of habits.  The majority like to have the same habits day in and day out.  Therefore, by continually enforcing the work zone safety laws, regardless of worker presence, allows a new habit to be formed by the motoring public and decrease the risk of injury or death to the work zone workers.
Finally, I want people to remember that each of these workers have family.  Someone calls them mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, brother or sister.  They have people who love them and care about them just like we do.  These individuals deserve the opportunity to spend more time with the ones they love.  So, the citizens who get the luxury to enjoy the great highways that are built from this labor should also respect the workers who work in them.  Slow down, obey the safety signs/signals and allow for these highway workers to spend another night at home with the ones they love.
Casey Simoneau is a Technical Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol


Everyone else's driving

By Brad Reeh
Work zones are there to protect the workers and the motorists. When we are out working on the road, we depend on our work zones to keep the motorists and KDOT employees safe. With all the technology that we have in the vehicle like cell phones, GPS and other gadgets, many motorists are not paying attention to what is going on in front of them.

It was the summer of 2012, shortly after I became the Supervisor in Colby – a 95 degree day and we were doing some patching on Highway 25. We had all the equipment needed and all the traffic control signs out that were needed at the time. We were half-way done with the job and I sent an employee to get some more material so we could finish the patching. I went to relieve one of the flagmen and to give him a break because he had been flagging most of the day. I was flagging for about 20 minutes, enjoying the day, when I had a motorist stop. The motorist got out of his truck, which was hauling batteries, and asked how long the wait was. I informed him it would only be a few minutes or so.
The driver got back in his truck and put his seat belt on while he waited to be released. I noticed a bull hauler coming up from behind him at a high rate of speed. It was like he did not see the truck. I waved my arms to get his attention, and as he looked up, it was too late. The bull hauler turned to the ditch, and as he was turning he hit the back of the truck that was stopped.

After it was over, I radioed the other flagger to hold all traffic because there was an accident that had occurred. I call 911 and had another employee come to relieve me so that I could check on the driver of the battery truck. I then also checked on the bull hauler driver and both were fine. I asked the driver of the bull hauler if he had not seen the traffic control signs and to my surprise, he said that he had not.
Later on, after the Highway Patrol was finished with the accident, one of the patrolmen came up to me and said the bull hauler was not paying attention. This could have been a lot worse, not only for the truck driver, but also for everyone in the area.

Like I tell my kids, it’s not your driving I worry about, it’s everyone else’s driving that worries me.

Brad Reeh is the KDOT Subarea Supervisor in Colby

2015 National Work Zone Awareness Week


From March 23 to March 27, a new blog will be posted every day from people sharing their stories and experiences focusing on why work zone safety is so important as part of the 2015 National Work Zone Awareness Week efforts in Kansas

Please feel free to share this link with others - our goal is for everyone to be safe in work zones, both the highway workers and the motorists.

Also check out our Go Orange website filled with lots of safety information at