Local road workers gear up for construction season

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - Wood County road workers trained, learned and geared up for road construction season.

It was all part of work zone safety awareness week and it was timely with the seven to eight month road construction season in Wisconsin just beginning.

38 Wood County workers took part in the training. Many said they are ready to apply the skills and drills they learned today to the roads so they can keep themselves and drivers safe.

Being a road worker is no easy task.

"It's an extremely stressful situation being out on the roads worrying about if the guys I'm working with, let alone watching out for the motoring public's safety. We're using equipment that are tens of thousands of pounds. It can crush a person or injure, may kill a person," said Joachim Mangen, who has worked for the Wood County Highway Department for seven years.

Learning can make anything and everything easier and less stressful. That was why Wood County road workers participated in the training program.

They learned everything from traffic control, flagging, setting cones to a particular height, and more.

Mangen said it was all valuable information, even if it was reminders. "It's stuff that is a matter of life and death," said Mangen.

Doug Passineau, the Wood County Highway Commissioner, has some tips for drivers. "The biggest trick is being aware of what's ahead of you. If you see a traffic construction zone, make sure you're not on your cellphones. Read ahead, watch the signs, slow down. I know the workers really appreciate when vehicles come through at a real slower pace," said Passineau.

The big takeaway is "safety. I hope everybody goes home at night. These folks have kids and families that they need to go home to so really be careful with this. The cell phone use in work zones, there is a new law that you can't use them so please do not," said Passineau.

Three workers in construction sites have died in the past year and six drivers were killed, totaling nine fatalities in the state.

The Wood County Highway Department hopes this year will be safer.

Work Zone Awareness week brings local and national attention to motorist and worker safety issues inside of work zones, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration's website. This year, it takes place from Monday, April 11 to Friday, April 15.

In 2013, the most recent year data was revealed, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reportted that there were nearly 1,600 work zone crashes in Wisconsin, resulting in 629 injuries and nine deaths.