Change Acknowledges Risk Road Crews Face Every Day
Every day out on the roads, whether in vehicles or on foot, Department of Transportation workers face potentially life-threatening situations when out on the roads helping keep them safe and passable. Say nothing about bad weather — a driver reaching for a phone or who’s fallen asleep could have disastrous consequences.
Accidents happen all too frequently for often defenseless road workers. That’s the rationale behind a bill that would issue hazardous duty pay to certain DOT workers, according to Chapter 17 President Dan Brennan. The first hearing for that bill is set for next week.
“DOT workers are sitting ducks out there at times,” Brennan said. “Our cones don’t stop anything, and we have no offensive means of protecting ourselves. Anything we do is defensively precautionary. We can set up all the road signs and arrow boards we want, but at the end of the day, there’s little we can do to make it safer.”
HB 426, which is sponsored by Chapter 1 member and Rep. Alan Turcotte, doesn’t lessen the danger the workers face, but offers some compensation to acknowledge it. The bill, as written, would pay workers whose “primary job responsibilities involve maintenance or construction on state highways, roads, and bridges in the normal course of their duties” $20 a week in hazardous duty pay.
Brennan, who worked for eight years as a firefighter in Long Island, said DOT workers who put themselves at risk to help the public deserve the same respect as police officers and firefighters.
“Like them, we took the job knowing that it can be dangerous,” Brennan said. “We hope the Legislature will show that they understand the risks in what we do and recognize that by approving this bill.”
The hearing for HB 426 is set for 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, in Room 201 of the Legislative Office Building. Brennan is organizing turnout through his chapter, but given the potential for bad weather pulling workers away, members are encouraged to stop by the hearing and sign your name in support of the bill.