Look Again
After nearly 30 years using statistical work sampling and analysis on industrial construction projects, I am amazed to read about "huge" construction productivity improvements, as in your article "Accurate Measures Are Elusive" (ENR 5/12 p. 10). The CERF conference presenters offer no credible data to refute [Paul] Teicholz’s graph of construction industry productivity falling behind the U.S. economy. Note that the article’s BLS data show that "multifactor productivity" has been nearly flat for over a decade.

But, even if not "accurate" enough to some, the data show clearly that the industry is behind the curve. The problem is not "elusive measures" but, "elusive management"–both owner and constructors–oblivious to their outmoded industry practices and field work processes. For companies with vision this merely presents a great opportunity to take advantage of improving productivity and profitability.

Change Safety Practices
After reading your editorial, "Work Zone Fatalities Are Appalling and Out of Control" (ENR 4/14 p. 68), it is obvious that any loss of life is tragic and all possible steps should be taken to avoid tragedy. As a construction supervisor who drives 35,000-plus miles per year, my personal observations, along with your statistics, tell me that much of the problem is with traffic control by crews doing the work.

Confusing lane markings cause traffic to flow into the wrong direction. Flagmen signaling traffic in perpendicular directions at the same time signal people stepping into 40-mph traffic to allow a truck out of work site. These are a few of the things that I have witnessed.

The fact that you indicate that 80% of fatalities are motorists further says the industry needs to improve traffic control and driver cooperation. Many people drive through a construction site daily and become familiar with the traffic flow. Many others pass through only once and are not familiar with the road, let alone reconfigured lanes due to construction. Performing work in off-peak traffic hours might help. Smaller, more concentrated work zones might also help. Better lane markings and better training for traffic control people are two more positive things that can be done.

Lastly, an attitude that workers have the right of way needs to be changed. Motorists are the reason that money is spent on roads. While no one is right in an accident that could have been prevented by either party, the construction crews are working for the motorists on the motorists’ property. Treat the motorists like friends and my guess is most will reciprocate.

Contractors still don’t get the message about work zone safety. At a highway job 15 miles from our office, crews are running across freeway traffic at the beginning and end of their shift. Work is going on between the traffic lanes. The contractor has made no provision for crews to access the work safely so they run across live traffic lanes to get to work. Last month, a member of a striping crew was hit and killed by a driver not paying attention.

The highway patrol standing by on the jobsites helped workers for a while until the public got used to them. I like the idea of putting undercover police with radar on jobs to keep traffic under control.