The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 25, 2014

News Briefs

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

Work zone injuries up; but crashes are down

The Michigan Department of Transportation called the new figures “alarming”: the number of serious injuries resulting from work zone crashes in Michigan nearly doubled from 57 in 2012 to 107 in 2013.

MDOT released the numbers on April 7, the beginning of “Work Zone Awareness Week.” The 2013 work zone crashes in Michigan resulted in motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians being killed – while there were construction worker fatalities in 2013, none involved motor vehicles.

“Drivers must pay complete attention to everything that is going on in a work zone in order to safely react to changing conditions,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “Stay safe by paying attention not only to workers, but to stopped traffic in front of you and to other drivers attempting to merge, many at the last minute. We are going to be drilling down into the data to learn more about what may have led to last year’s rise in serious injuries, but even at this early stage, we can say that many of these crashes could have been avoided if drivers had been more alert behind the wheel.”

While there was a significant rise in the number of serious injuries in work zones, oddly enough, there was a significant drop in the number of crashes. According to MDOT, there were 4,080 crashes, 1,112 injuries, and 10 fatalities in Michigan work zones in 2013, as compared to 4,592 crashes, 1,181 injuries, and 15 fatalities the year before.

“We have been all over the state training road construction workers on safe work habits,” said Rob Coppersmith, vice president of membership services for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association. “But the one thing we can’t control is driver behavior. We are asking anyone who drives in construction zones to exercise caution, and put down their cell phones so that road construction workers can go home to their families at the end of the day.”


AFL-CIO membership up, but not really

Membership in the AFL-CIO membership grew by about 1 million from 2012 to 2013, but the gains were essentially because of last year’s re-affiliation of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

The 56-member group of unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO  saw an average of 9.36 million members during the 12 months of 2013, a gain of just over 1 million compared to 2013. And that 1 million gain about matched the membership numbers the UFCW brought in rejoining the labor federation.

Take the UFCW out of the equation, says the Bureau of National Affairs, and the AFL-CIO would have lost about 18,000 members from 2012 to 2013.

Those AFL-CIO numbers, released in March, match up with a report issued in January by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics covering all union labor (both affiliated and non-affiliated with the AFL-CIO).  That report found that the union share of the U.S. workforce, at 11.3 percent, essentially remained unchanged from 2012. But the total number of union members in the U.S., 14.5 million, rose a bit by 162,000.