As a communications specialist at Denver Water, I have the privilege of sharing stories about industry innovation, employee passion, Denver Water’s commitment to customers, and even Running Toilet videos.
But this time I’m writing a plea, asking you and everyone you know to change your behavior around construction zones.
Originally, I planned to write a quick, lighthearted story on safety around work zones after a vehicle ended up in a hole at one of our projects — for the second time this year.
But my lighthearted story was changed by a recent event in Louisville, Kentucky, and the impact my words could have.
Louisville Water lost a member of its family and another was critically injured July 22 after a vehicle crashed into their job site. We at Denver Water share Louisville’s grief and acknowledge that this could happen anywhere, and to anyone.
But it shouldn’t.
In the last year, I’ve witnessed more than a dozen occasions where vehicles have ignored barricades, gone around safety cones or sped through Denver Water work zones. I’ve also seen a handful of vehicles end up in our ditches in the middle of a project.
The conversations I’ve had with our crews after these incidents are always the same.
They tell me if the incident had happened a couple of minutes earlier it would have been a different story; how a few minutes earlier one of our employees would have been hit.
Our crews don’t ask for much.
They go out to their assignments day and night, in all types of weather. They have a job to do, to restore drinking water service as fast and safely as possible. They shouldn’t have to think twice whether they’ll be going home safely that night.
The reality is that delivering water to your homes is not without risk, but our crews have a passion to continue delivering clean, reliable, high-quality drinking water to the 1.4 million people in the Denver metro area and surrounding suburbs.
Denver Water has approximately 16 crews, with about 120 employees, working on hydrants, water mains and other improvements. These are the people that you, the customer, come in contact with almost every day.
During construction work, such as pipe replacement projects, main breaks and service line replacements, our crews’ first goal is to restore water to our customers as quickly and safely as possible. The first step to do this is to set up a perimeter with barricades blocking off the impacted areas. Sometimes this is done by the responding police department since they can be the first ones to arrive.
Denver Water crews replace an average of approximately 70,000 feet of pipe per year and there are plans to increase this number in the future.
Here’s what I ask of you whenever you see barricades, cones blocking the road or any type of construction zone.
Slow your roll
We get it. You have places to be, work to go to, kids to drop off at school. But our employees also have a job to do and their own families to go home to after work. So, slow down in construction zones.
According to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, in 2017 there were 710 fatal crashes in work zones that killed 799 people nationwide. In Colorado, for the same year, there were 15 fatal work zone crashes that killed 17 people.
Barricades are for you, me, us, everyone
Don’t go around barricades or try to make your way into a construction zone.
Our crews go through several steps before working on the road.
First, they identify road impacts and set up a perimeter with barricades. Then they isolate the break in the water main during emergency repairs. In all cases, our crews must wait for other utility lines to be located and divert or shut off water from the pipeline. An equipment staging area also must be identified before work can begin.
Barricades and cones are set up for your safety and the safety of our crews.
So far this year, Denver Water has had two incidents where vehicles ended up in a hole, causing damage to the vehicle and our equipment. Most importantly, no one was injured in these two incidents.
But we may not always be so lucky. Everyone should agree that these two incidents are two too many.