CAIT and the New Jersey Work Zone Safety Partnership welcomed more than 250 professionals to the annual New Jersey Work Zone Safety Conference at Rutgers Livingston Campus Student Center on April 5. This year was the conference’s milestone 20th year of educating and supporting those who work on the state’s roadways.
Attendees from construction, transportation, engineering, public safety, maintenance operations, and utilities engaged in a full-day program focusing on enhanced worker and public safety. New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety was the apropos sponsor of the event.
A notable validation, the New Jersey State Legislature issued a Joint Legislative Resolution formally recognizing the conference as the state’s official observance of Work Zone Safety Week. The national event this year was April 8–12, and the theme was “Drive Like You Work Here.”
The day began with opening remarks from Robert Clark, Federal Highway Administration–New Jersey Division administrator; Richard Mendelson, regional director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and Snehel Patel, assistant commissioner from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. All three speakers emphasized that both drivers and workers need to do their parts when it comes to keeping work zones safe. Drivers need to slow down and resist distractions from electronic devices. Workers must set up work zones properly and remain vigilant in these potentially dangerous job sites.
Retired Pennsylvania State Trooper Robert Bemis told his riveting personal story in the keynote address. Trooper Bemis, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, was struck by a motorist while trying to extinguish a car fire on the road shoulder. Rob was so severely injured that from that day until now, he requires crutches to help him walk. In addition to being a hero and a dynamic speaker, Trooper Bemis also is a published author. His presentation illuminated how important it is to stay vigilant when working in potentially dangerous roadways.
Honoring work zone safety crusaders
A section of the agenda is always set aside to recognize outstanding accomplishments in service of promoting safety. The Work Zone Safety Distinguished Service Awards went to John Mazur, a retired New Jersey State Trooper and OSHA emergency response coordinator, and Mary Ameen, executive director of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, both 30-year veterans of work zone safety. This year’s Excellence Awards honorees were Derrick Wade, a traffic control coordinator for Crisdel Group from Local 472, and Kenneth Funkhouser from Local 172, currently a traffic control coordinator for Rencor Inc.
All four recipients were honored for excellence in leadership, expertise, judgment, communication, and their contributions in ensuring a safe environment for roadway workers throughout the region who put it on the line every day.