Columbus — The Ohio Department of Transportation is joining other transportation departments across the country in celebrating National Work Area Awareness Week.
This week is set aside every year to remind drivers of the need to pay extra attention in work areas to keep themselves and workers safe.
The last ODOT employee on the job, John Pascoe, was killed on March 15, 2018, while brushing along Interstate 680 in Mahoning County. It is the 162nd name added to the ODOT Workers Memorial.
“It is important for drivers to remember to look out for the safety of our road crews as they work so hard to keep our streets and highways safe,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Paying attention, slowing down, and giving crew space to work are simple steps all drivers can take to prevent tragedies in our work areas.”
Since everyone has a role to play in work area safety, the theme for this year is Work With Us. National event hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Nationally, 857 people, including 117 workers, were killed in 774 fatal workplace accidents in 2020, the latest data available.
In Ohio, there were 4,628 work-related accidents last year. Of these, 21 are fatal, resulting in 23 deaths. Fortunately, no workers were killed. The Ohio State Highway Patrol wrote 4,477 work zone citations in 2024, 35 percent of them for speeds over 20 mph over the speed limit.
“A lot of these work-related accidents are caused by drivers not paying attention, speeding, or closely following the vehicle in front of them,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “It is essential that drivers pay extra attention to the road in work areas and obey speed limits and other signs so everyone can make it home safely at the end of the day.”
What many fail to recognize, he said, is that most fatalities in work area accidents are motorists and their passengers.
Wednesday is Go Orange Day. The public is encouraged to wear orange to show awareness of work area safety and support for road workers. Thursday will see a push on social media. The week concludes with a moment of silence on Friday.
I have a family that I want to go home. “It takes a few extra seconds to move or slow down,” said Tim Felton, ODOT’s Washington County Garage highway technician.
In April 2002, Steve Lafferty was working with an ODOT crew along State Route 115 near US 30 in Allen County when he was hit by a truck that had swerved off the road to avoid traffic that the flag bearer had stopped in the work area.
“We were almost at the end of the day, maybe 15 or 20 minutes,” Lafferty recalls. “He was going so fast that we didn’t have time to react.”
Lafferty escaped serious injuries, but did not return to work at ODOT.
“I loved my job at ODOT. It was the best job I ever had,” Lafferty said. “To not be able to keep doing that is a hard pill to swallow.”